Welcome, cats and kittens, to yet another installment of the only reviews that are eagerly waiting to receive their Wrestle Kingdom press pass, any year now, Cewsh Reviews! Tonight, we have a special treat for you as we roll out that magnificent red carpet, put on our fanicest finery, and stroll arm and arm right into the Tokyo Dome for NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 11! If you know about Wrestle Kingdom, you don’t need me to tell you that on this night, the entire wrestling world revolves around Tokyo, Japan. If you don’t know about Wrestle Kingdom, then welcome, my friend. Take a seat, enjoy some of our artisanal cheeses and get ready, because the greatest night of the wrestling year is upon us, and it is time to FEAST.
So without any further ado, let’s do a motherfucking review!
Segment 1 – Tiger Mask W vs. Tiger the Dark
DDT: Tiger Mask W is the relaunch of the cartoon that simultaneously jump started the career of two legends, one mainstay veteran, and is responsible for the schmuck on the pre-show still getting paid. It is as much propaganda as it is a cartoon, with New Japan being a benefactor of the titular character fighting the evil Global Wrestling Monopoly with their over-sized, cocky wrestlers and their women who are with looks but without talent. Tiger the Dark is an obvious nod to Tiger Mask’s eternal rival, Black Tiger. Now these two take their epic feud from an animated wrestling ring to the real one, to do battle once more.
There’s just a slight problem; Tiger Mask W is Kota Ibushi and he doesn’t even take the slightest pains to try and hide it. He is constantly dropping his signature spots, from his springboard moonsault to his sit-out Last Ride powerbomb. Nobody is fooled, yet everyone is playing along. Even Corino and Kelly get in on the action, with Kevin steering Steve away from drawing obvious conclusions every time he gets close to the truth. At least the man behind the Dark’s match (ACH) made token efforts to hide his identity, avoiding some of his more trademark dives. However, he seemed uncomfortable under the hood and it was noticeable.
Not a bad match; some flippies, some fun, and didn’t overstay its welcome.
Cewsh: This match is a thing that happened. For an American fan watching their first Japanese wrestling show, this would seem pretty goddamn ridiculous, I would have to admit, but as a callback to the fun Tiger Mask antics of the 80s, this worked as a fun little opener. Unfortunately there just wasn’t much to the match at all. It got about 8 minutes, delivered your standard Kota Ibushi match, and wrapped things up so the kids could get off to bed before the real show started.
I’m still hoping that in the rematch we get to see some of these moves:
72 out of 100
Psycho: If you like goofy wrestling and super heroes, you’ll like this match.
If you like Kota Ibushi and ACH, you’ll like this match.
There’s seriously nothing special here as far as memorability, but it was certainly and a great Tokyo Dome opener from two skilled ring warriors.
Tiger Mask W Over Tiger the Dark Following The Last Tiger Ride.
Segment 2- IWGP Junior Tag Team Championships – Young Bucks vs. Roppongi Vice
DDT: Rocky Romero is a treasure and I will hear no argument otherwise. He (badly) sings his own theme-song, wears a damn eye-patch, a FABULOUS fur coat, and carries himself in a ridiculous manner that is JUST believable enough you think this nut-ball actually goes into the streets of Japan screaming “FOR-EVAAAAA!!!” Yet if the situation calls for it, Rocky can become a serious, dangerous competitor with the snap of a finger, able to keep up with any wrestler of any style on the planet. In short, he’s the perfect mid-card professional wrestler, and may God bless him and his family far into the future for carving out his niche in Japan.
Oh, and Trent(?) is there too…I guess.
Actually, that isn’t quite fair. Roppongi Vice had a bit of a story going into this match; for a while, leading up to the Best of Super Junior Tag tournament, Roppongi Vice had been on a losing streak, with poor Rocky consistently dropping the fall. Trent showed massive frustration with his partner, to the point that people were suspecting it was leading to a break-up. Enter the Best of Super Junior Tag Tournament, which Roppongi won to claim this title shot. Yet there is still trouble in paradise; it was Trent who scored the victories in those matches, and it seemed like Rocky was just dragging his partner down.
Enter the Young Bucks, the most dominant tag team in all of professional wrestling.
Now, let’s set aside my general distaste for their wink-wink nudge-nudge style of wrestling, or the conceit that these two men are such bad-asses that despite having the total combined weight of a wet sock they are an even fight for either Rocky (who has had formal training in at least two fighting disciplines) OR Trent (who has had breakfasts bigger than the entire Jackson family), let alone both together. The Young Bucks have been a success everywhere they’ve been, and I don’t just mean “they won some belts” (though they’ve clearly done so, walking to the ring with the ROH, PWG, and IWGP Jr. tag titles). No, they get fans into their matches, their character work, and the merchandise sales. Mostly by copying more famous wrestlers and playing to the smarky nature of modern day indy crowds, but who am I to argue with what works?
A smarky indy-wrestling fan with a website; THAT’S WHO!!!
Ahem. There’s a reason why ROH wanted them so badly that the Young Bucks are allowed to go out to California to play despite signing an ‘exclusive’ deal. They are proven draws, and I unfortunately must learn to deal with it. The Young Bucks ARE tag team wrestling, and have dominated the Junior division of New Japan for several years now, and even made a bid at capturing the Heavyweight tag team titles in a well-received bout. To say that, in kayfabe terms, Rocky and Trent are out of their league is to say that Hulk Hogan couldn’t bodyslam Andre the Giant, or that Daniel Bryan couldn’t defeat Triple H AND Batista AND Randy Orton; there are just some things that are so obvious they don’t need to be stated, do they?
The match is played out with the Young Bucks almost being dismissive of their opponents and the belts they carried to the ring. They even teased getting counted out (which I believe under New Japan rules would have led to them getting stripped of the titles) …only to turn around and superkick the bejesus out of Roppongi Vice. From there it played to the Young Buck formula of double-team, superkick, double-team double-team double-team superkick superkick DOUBLE superkick double-team into a double-superkick. This double team focuses mostly on Rocky, who valiantly survives and makes the hot tag to his partner, his friend, the man who carried their team while Rocky was in a rut. Trent runs wild, beating up the Bucks like they owe him money, and looks ready to save this team from Rocky’s fuck-ups again…
…and then eats shit on a dive.
Rocky is all by himself against the best (heh) tag team in wrestling. Rocky tries his hardest, the crowd encourages him, but it’s only a matter of time before the Bucks run their gauntlet of double-teams on the poor man. They set him up for their all-time classic, More Bang for Your Buck…and then Rocky reversed the Finlay roll into the Crucifix pin for the win.
Redemption. A tale as old as time, a song as old as rhyme.
Roppongi Vice are back on top of the Jr. tag mountain. While the Bucks slink off and almost petulantly remind Kevin Kelly that they still have the ROH tag titles, so there! Rocky’s personal demons have been vanquished, and the goddamn treasure has some goddamn gold to go with his glorious eye-patch and fabulous coat. I hope he wears those, the title belt, and nothing else as he parades the streets of Roppongi screaming “FOR-EVAAAAA!!!”. Now stop eye-balling him, Trent(!)
Psycho: Some of you probably know that I’m an unabashed Young Bucks fan. They instantly won me over as Generation Me when they had a barn-burner with Motor City Machine Guns. They can be intensely spot-heavy, and at times it can be taxing. But they’re so inventive and smooth with their tandem offense that I can’t help but love it, whether they’re crafting something with substance or flipping away with the worst of them.
Some of you also probably know that I’m a HUUUUUUUUUGE Trent? mark. And while RPG Vice might be my favorite “Rocky Romero Featuring…” Tag Team, a lot of that has more to do with Trent being there than any actual chemistry between the two. Thankfully, they’ve torn it up in every match I’ve seen them, whether it be in ROH, NJPW, PWG, or anywhere else, so this match has loads of potential. The thing is…the Jr. Tag division has basically been the same three teams with the occasional slot rotation, so it gets to the point where you don’t really look forward to the tag title matches in NJPW as much as you enjoy them despite having seen whatever match-up it is thirty times already. I stopped watching a year ago, and the Bucks and RPG Vice were feuding. I come back a year later, and they’re still feuding. I’m not surprised, but being away from NJPW from so long, it’ll be nice to have a fresh reintroduction into the repetition of the Jr. Tag Division.
I should remark that this is probably the first Jr. Tag Title match at Wrestle Kingdom that wasn’t a multi-team match in maybe 3 years. That does make it feel A LITTLE more special.
Part of what makes RPG Vice so great is how well they play into their antics. I loved Forever Hooligans, and they made a great pairing, but Koslov always felt like a very serious wrestler trapped in a gimmick. And it worked for some(me), but he never seemed as naturally goofy as Rocky Romero is. Beretta captures spirit, so when they do things like comically stumble to the ring to beat the 20-Count, it looks like a clip from a well-praised buddy comedy.
The Young Bucks make such great heels as petulant, arrogant brats.
Good twists on signature spots.
The Bulldog/Dropkick from the top into the Canadian Destroyer to counter RPG Vice’s finish was fire.
Much like the opener, there isn’t much here that will stick with me throughout the year, let alone any further in the future. However, unlike the opener, there’s a bit more to sink your teeth into here, and the match actually mattered to a degree. Couple that with two teams putting together an exciting, but dramatic match, and you have your average baseline for a Wrestle Kingdom undercard match.
Cewsh: Just like I said in my Wrestle Kingdom preview, Rocky Romero and the Young Bucks have wrestled in some version or another roughly 17,046 times over the past 5 years. I don’t think they’ve ever had a bad match, nor a particularly great one. What they do instead is wrestle the kind of match that makes you catch yourself grinning stupidly at the tv. Catchphrases galore, creative and ever changing spots and a tireless pace that builds on itself until the sudden stop at the end of the ride, there should be a match like this on every major show that ever happens ever. It’s fun without being memorable, and fast paced without burning you out. On a 5 hour show, matches like this are the elixir that gets you through to the end.
75 out of 100
Roppongi Vice Over The Young Bucks Following A Crucifix Pin.
Segment 3 – NEVER Openweight 6 Man Tag Team Championships – Satoshi Kojima, David Finlay Jr and Ricochet (c) vs. Bullet Club vs. Los Ingobernables vs. Chaos
DDT: The second of the “get everybody on the show” matches, and the one that made it to the main card. This was run as a gauntlet match, with Chaos and Bullet Club starting us off. For all his faults, Ospreay is fun as hell to watch, Jado was over as hell, and Yoshi-Hashi is just a bundle of energy. Unfortunately, they were up against the Bullet Club C-listers, which means there was only so much they could do with them. Ospreay had a fun few sequences with Adam Page, but after that it was lights out Jado and good-bye CHAOS.
LIJ came down to the ring and had a two-minute garbage brawl with Bullet Club in which the utterly and completely destroyed them before Yujiro was choked out by SANADA. Then Yujiro’s accompanying porn stars left with the Club and Kevin Kelly and Corino FINALLY started to pay attention to the match at hand.
Then came out the champs, and this match FINALLY picked up. I have to confess to enjoying this, but then I enjoy all six of the remaining participants to a greater degree (Kojima) or a lesser (Ricochet). By the by, Kojima is the nicest man on wrestling twitter, and you should follow him. Business picked up, Dave Finlay (who couldn’t be happier that Matt Sydal keeps getting busted for drugs) throws himself around the ring like a mad-man, but in the end LIJ’s dastardly cheating ways were too much, and with a mist spray to the eyes of the Sweetest Man in Wrestling, Kojima falls prey to EVIL and the most EVIL move in his EVIL repertoire; the most EVIL finisher in all of wrestling…EVIL!!!! (it’s an STO…THAT’S EVI~LLLL!!!). Now Los In…Ingo… Ingobernables de Japon (HA! GOT IT!!) have the six man tag team titles!!
For a few days, at least.
Psycho: It’s easy to see that the spirit of this championship has not changed since its induction a year ago. The belts changed very quickly after the first winning team was decided, and now a year later, and we an almost completely different set of teams fighting for it. This is probably the first mach that I have arguably no interest in, but there are definitely much more talented individuals invovled this year compared to the inaugural match.
I have yet to see anything from Will Ospreay outside of his much-talked about match with Ricochet in the BOSJ tournament. But now that I can see him where he’s not being mirrored half the time, I can immediately see why the kid is so well-praised. The level of athleticism he displays is ridiculous. I think the only thing Ricochet beats him on his finesse, and that’s something that is probably mostly due to a difference in experience.
It’s a shame Ospreay’s time was short-lived in the match, but it was worth it to see the heartless domination of LIJ as they hit the ring. Sure, it took getting past an early string of cheap shots from Bullet Club, but they really didn’t stand a chance. So I’m guessing this is where the “real” match starts?
This portion of the match probably has the most heat, and the pace is frenetic. Ricochet does what he does best, David Finlay continues to show boatloads of potential, and Kojima is supreme as a fiery babyface. He always gets the crowd rallied behind him in the biggest way, no matter how insignificant the match he’s a part of. I don’t know how the prestige of these belts have been built, but here, Kojima does a lot to make the finish of this match feel big. That’s not to take away from anything his partners did, and especially not Los Ingobernables. In fact, just the mere presence of LIJ adds so much to the match. The victory feels like it matters, which is a major difference to where the titles stood a year ago. And if LIJ have had the big year I think they have, then this can only mean good things for them.
Cewsh: This match was kind of a goddamn mess.
The way they did this, by turning it into a gauntlet and letting it go on for what felt like an eternity did it no favors, but far worse was the lackadaisical attitude of everyone involved. It’s kind of a problem that New Japan currently has not one but TWO stables that are dedicated to acting aloof so they can look cool. Here, the B players of both are just kind of wandering around in proximity of one another without ever really doing anything.
The match ends and we have new champions and whatever, but man, this was a waste of everyone’s time.
66 out of 10
Los Ingobernables Over Everyone.
Segment 4 – Cody vs. Juice Robinson
DDT: This restle Kingdom featured a match between an ex-WWE guy who bet on himself, went his own way and showed how underutilized he was vs. Cody. Both men left the company citing dissatisfaction with their role, and a belief that they had more to offer wrestling. Cody was quite public about this, wrote a bucket list of tournaments/places/people he wanted to wrestle, and the Dome was on said Bucket List. The problem is that his arrival to the indies was greeted with great fanfare, and now he has practically over-stayed his welcome. Every once in a while a Chris Hero will get a good match out of him, but Cody has primarily been what he was in WWE; an above average worker who you sense could POSSIBLY have something more to offer…and then he never does.
The former CJ Parker, however, spent years being a jobber in the WWE developmental system, left for New Japan and his stock has risen exponentially. Fans have taken a great liking to him, not just for his charisma but for the obvious effort he puts into everything. This has gotten him noticed to the point of him being a regular tag partner of Hiroshi Tanahashi. Is he a world-beater or a great wrestler? Probably not, but he is competent, and his effort and love more than make up the difference. Truth be told, despite Cody being the better in ring performer in this match, the one I came away impressed with was Juice Robinson. His stock just keeps rising match after match, and Cody’s just sort of simmers. Obviously Cody won, because why would you debut a bigger name on your biggest show just to job him out?
Psycho: I’d like to clarify that I love Cody Rhodes. It took his “Disfigured” character for me to see the true potential, but ever since, I’ve been firmly on-board the Cody bandwagon. Unfortunately, I have yet to see any of his post-WWE outings, but I’ve been hearing nothing but good things. Here, he definitely lives up to the hype, and this “American Nightmare” persona may be the best Cody yet, but I’m sure Cewsh and DDT will have plenty to say about that, and in a much more eloquent fashion. So instead, let me take a moment to break precedent and gush about Juice Robinson.
This dude used to be the slightly less boring half of one of the most boring tag teams in all of FCW. Formerly CJ Parker, he seemed to have nothing going for him, and even his big character shift into the “Moonchild” near the start of the NXT era didn’t seem to make him any more entertaining or likable. It wasn’t until he started dabbling as a heel that we could see that he had a personality that could actually go far. Now if only his wrestling could have caught on…
The fact is CJ Parker was never a bad wrestler. He just never did anything that stood out. Maybe it took breaking Kevin Owens’ nose, but that stand-out quality started to show up in his matches right before he was released. Cue Juice Robinson, the unchained CJ Parker who likes to say, “Fuck” a lot. It had been fun watching what he could do when he seemingly had all in-ring and character freedom, and while it showed he might have been forced to hold back in WWE Development, he still wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire. Fast forward a year, and here he is legitimately putting on a great match with Cody Rhodes, and it’s NOT just because of Cody Rhodes. Juice is throwing suplexes and taking every opportunity to play to the crowd, hyping up Cody’s character, and selling like a freakin’ champ. Granted, he’s still a tad sloppy and he whiffed pretty bad on a cannonball to the outside, so maybe it was a little less selling and more reality. But the way they both capitalized on it and made it such an integral part of the match heightened the drama to a degree that shouldn’t be allowed in glorified squash debuts. Cody was fantastic, but Juice Robinson deserves praise for his performance here. He either has major guts, or he has selling that could put Sami Zayn to shame.
A debut that lives up to the hype and wrestlers telling a gripping story with little-to-no build-up? I think we have our first “stand-out” match, folks.
Cewsh: Is Juice Robinson paying you guys for endorsements? Because if he is, I want in on that.
Forget Juice Robinson, this is the best Cody Rhodes has ever looked. Ever. This isn’t his best match, please don’t mistake me. This is simply the complete complete he has ever been as a performer. He has honed his athleticism into something that takes you by surprise time and time again, he has toned his “I’m laughing BUT NOW I’M MAD” thing into something that is actually a little scary, and his work is clean and smooth and he has filled his arsenal with things that work for him. Whether he had this in him when he was with WWE and they wouldn’t let him show it, or if it took a few months on the indy scene to fine tune what he wanted to be is a question that i’ll leave up to philosophers. The important thing is that THIS Cody Rhodes is really to be a star. We’ll just have to see if this is the place where he does it.
77 out of 100
Cody Over Juice Robinson Following The CrossRunnels.
Segment 5 – ROH World Championship- Kyle O’Reilly vs. Adam Cole
DDT: Trick someone you hate into watching this match on English commentary and have them play a drinking game: every time the phrase ‘Adam Cole, BAY-BAY!’ is uttered, they take a shot of something alcoholic. I promise you they will be dead inside three-to-five minutes, depending on their tolerance. You will have a good laugh for about a minute, then drink yourself to death when you realize you still have to slog through the final four of the match. I honestly have no idea what ROH is doing here. I’m not sure either of these two are under contract, so why are they competing over your top title? Furthermore, why are you doing a title change on a show where almost no one cares? Sure, New Japan faithful know about O’Reilly, but who the fuck cares about the Pudgemaster Adam Cole in Japan?
These two have had fantastic matches against each other in the past, but it has been the law of diminishing returns with them, and they need more than ten minutes to get an unfamiliar crowd into their work. I have seen this feud carry on in not one but two companies; really don’t need to see it go overseas.
Psycho: If you know anything about Kyle O’Reilly and Adam Cole, it’s probably that they have excellent chemistry. I’ve never seen a bad match between the two. In fact, their first post-Future Shock match in ROH was a star-making moment for Adam Cole, and it still remains one of my favorite matches of the modern era. Fast forward a few years and the feud continues, but now on the ROH Championship level, with Kyle O’Reilly finally getting his big moment at Final Battle. I have yet to see Final Battle, but I fully expect the better match between the two will have taken place there, and not here, where’s it’s little more than a glorified midcard match.
That said, these two still eke out a match that is involving and worth sitting through. Because of the shrunken time frame and the lack of the home field, it doesn’t feel nearly as important as it should, and there’s never real time to develop something that I would consider riveting. The main part that stuck out to me was the finish, when Adam Cole starts loading O’Reilly up with superkick after superkick to knock him down for good, knowing it would take more than usual. I thought to myself, “This is a very convincing spot at feels like it could be the finish. Great drama.” However, as someone who apparently has his rumors mixed up, I did not expect Cole to actually get the pinfall and come out of this match victorious.
Maybe with more investment in the ROH Title scene and a couple more memorable moments, this match could have been something particularly special. But the finish and an unexpected(for me) victor was enough to give this match an extra nod. Not to mention the fact that history was made as we now have our FIRST EVER 3-Time Ring of Honor Champion. As a fan of indy wrestling, that’s a pretty big accomplishment, and historically significant considering ROH’s usual philosophy when it comes to booking the top title. Definitely shows the times changing for the company.
I’d say this was just a notch below Cody/Juice.
Cewsh: Sorry, boys and girls. I don’t review ROH matches. It’s all part of the restraining order.
BUT IF I DID review ROH matches, I would want to make it clear that this is a woefully poorly done match where the babyface gets about 2 minutes of offense, and the heel spends the entire match, from start to finish, screaming “ADAM COLE BAY BAY” at the top of his lungs. As an experience, it is neither lengthy, nor pleasing. And dammit, I want my matches filled to the brim with girth and meaning.
Er..yeah. You know what I mean.
68 out of 100
Adam Cole Over Kyle O’Reilly Following Brainbuster On The Knee.
Segment 6 – IWGP Tag Team Championships – Guerrilas of Destiny (c) vs. Makabe and Honma vs. Yano and Ishii
DDT: Tomohiro Ishii is at any point in time one of the three best wrestlers in the world and this is a complete waste of him. Let’s get that out of the way right now. Let’s also get out of the way that the Guerrillas of Destiny are, like most Bullet Club members, absolutely terrible. Supposedly they’ve had some good matches, but the majority of 2016 was everyone complaining about how bad Tama Tonga and his brother, Tanga Roa (The former Camacho) are. And they were awful; a big part of why I stopped following New Japan regularly towards the tail end of summer last year.
On the other hand, Great Bash Heel, the two-man stable that is perpetually at war with CHAOS for reasons lost to the sands of time, won the G1 Tag League last year to win this title shot. Togi Makabe & Tomiaki Honma are two of the most beloved wrestlers on the roster, and both (Honma especially) can produce barnburners of matches if put in the right circumstances.
English commentary actually starts to step up here, explaining how Yano has a history of having mystery partners at the Dome and sort of blundered his way into this tag title match, leaving G.O.D and G.B.H highly annoyed at the intrusion. Then comes the unexpected comedic highlight of the night. Tanga Roa and Makabe are two of the foulest-mouth wrestlers alive; they drop F-bombs the way Dave Meltzer drops snowflakes. Corino tried to keep a straight face, but in the end it proved too much, and he started to crack up with every curse word uttered; you could hear the tears streaming down his face.
Anyway, Ishii and Yano play ghosts in this match, showing up just long enough to cause some CHAOS (see what I did there?) and fade into the background so the champions and the true challengers could go at it. And…I have to admit it wasn’t bad. Maybe G.O.D HAVE improved. Yano’s little bit always gets me to laugh, just because of how blatantly and purposefully out of place it is with New Japan aesthetics. In the end, it is not G.O.D nor Heels, but CHAOS that reigns supreme.
Psycho: I gotta say, I’ve always had a soft spot for Tama Tonga, and the entrance music for Guerillas of Destiny is pretty wicked.
Tama Tonga has charisma in spades. It’s been his meal ticket since back when he was basically Tarzan Snuka. He has a very snappy style that makes his moves pop, even when he’s lacking in them. Camach- err, I mean Tanga Roa delivers a bit more than I expected, being the OTHER half of one the most boring tag teams in all of FCW with Juice Robinson.
Ishii/Honma feud is always magic whenever it’s rekindled.
Ishii feuding with any combo of Makabe and Honma is always a joy, but something about Makabe is much more enjoyable in a tag team setting. ]
High energy, hard-hitting, with some beefy spots. And the finish was a riot. Something about two men getting racked in the nuts before eating finishing clotheslines from Ishii tickles me in a spot only the combo of Yano and Ishii could. In fact, the pairing of Ishii and Yano is so absurd that it works.
That said, it’s hard to get excited for the heavyweight tag championships these days. The last time it felt like they had anything meaningful going for them was when Meiyu Tag took them at Wrestle Kingdom 9, ending Bullet Club’s year-long reign in a story that felt well told and reached a strong conclusion that would help push the division forward. Instead, Meiyu Tag lost the belts in a month, leading to a bunch of hot-shotting that has only been broken up by Gallows & Anderson reclaiming the belts for another lengthy run between it all. They had a chance to fix that mistake with GBH, and maybe they even could have ran with Guerillas of Destiny. But at this point, I’ve come to expect the IWGP Tag Team Championships will produce great matches that will never have significantly moving stories because they can’t stick with a direction. And this match embodies that spirit more than anything.
75 out of 100
Yano and Ishii Over Everyone Else.
Segment 7 – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship – Kushida (c) vs. Hiromu Takahashi
Cewsh: Kushida is a prisoner.
We’ve followed him since near the beginning of his career, as he debuted in HUSTLE as Taijiri’s protégé, before following him to SMASH and becoming their ace over the course of a year or two. Then, after making a name for himself on the indies, he realized his childhood dream of making it to New Japan at last, and teamed up with Alex Shelley in a team that won the hearts of audiences from Osaka to Oregon. As fans fell in love, and with the semi-retirement of Alex Shelley after numerous injuries, Kushida found himself on his own, pursuing the prize that his hero Jushin Liger held so many times. The IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship. After pursuing it recklessly, he finally won it in a match no one who saw it will soon forget.
Thus, Kushida became the face of Junior Heavyweight wrestling. And as wonderful as that must have felt for him, the reality became clearer with every half hearted title defense that followed. He would never grow. Not in stature and not in push. He hit the glass ceiling traveling at 88 miles per hour, and had to resign himself to being the best Junior Heavyweight Champion he could be. To be beloved, wear gold and know nothing but endless meaningless victory forever and ever until the sun burns out, or they invent a magical growing potion.
Hiromu Takahashi is free.
Every few years there is a class of students that graduate the New Japan dojo that are so good and packed with potential that it gets fans of the company buzzing about what they will be when they get back from their traditional excursions overseas. Tanahashi, Goto and Shibata. Mutoh, Chono and Hashimoto. And this time around it was……………………………. But while the other two members of the new triumvirate of terror left and came back with new characters and story lines, Takahashi continued to stay overseas for a truly odd amount of time. Month after month passed as Takahashi wrestled in Japan as Kamaitaichi, and began to steal the show with his truly insane, daredevil style of lucha libre. Then, after all this time, he finally emerged in New Japan with much hype and fanfare as something truly different.
Unburdened by any desire for respect, appreciation , or, indeed, any kind of social norm at all, Takahashi swaggered his way into a title match with Kushida with absolutely nothing to lose. Well, nothing he cared about losing, anyway. Aligning himself with Los Ingobernables and unfurling his freak flag for all to see, Takahashi is playing a different game entirely. One that Kushida simply wasn’t ready for.
This match is phenomenal. Kushida is probably one of the 10 best wrestlers in the world at this point in his career, and Takahashi has such a manic in ring style, that this thing felt absolutely relentless from start to finish. Takahashi took everything that Kushida had in his arsenal with a smile while Kushida looked on in increasingly growing dread and disbelief, before Takahashi finally put it together and ended Kushida’s stay at the Glass Ceiling Hotel. And while this match will unquestionably be revisited by New Japan a 100 times in the months and years to come, none of those matches will compare to the catharsis of this one, as Takahashi surpassed even the wildest hype and made himself a star on the biggest night of the year.
Other matches on this show were better, as such things are judged. But none were this goddamn fun.
87 out of 100
Cewsh’s Download Seal of Approval
DDT: This match was so…damn…GOOD!!!! Hiromu has a recklessness about him that is just captivating to watch; a man who doesn’t care if what he executes looks good, so long as it ends with him hurting his opponent. He even makes moves he botches look like brutal assaults, and doesn’t get flustered by them. It’s similar to Sasha Banks in a way, I suppose. But with Sasha they try to portray her as a first-rate wrestler, so when she hits something sloppily, it’s jarring. With Hiromu, he’s a madman, presented as a madman. The fact that his moves aren’t always hit clean reinforces the point, not detracts from it.
Meanwhile, KUSHIDA went with great looking offense, including snapping an armbar from mid-air that has to be seen to be believed. This match had one of the most dramatic submission spots I’ve seen in a long, long time, with KUSHIDA wrenching in his Hoverboard armlock and Hiromu struggling to get his head out from underneath KUSHIDA’s leg and relieve the pressure. He wasn’t just mindlessly struggling to get the ropes; he was WRESTLING his way out of the hold. After that, KUSHIDA kept trying to go for the arm, knowing he found a chink in Hiromu’s armor. However, his strategy became too predictable, too focused. Hiromu was able to capitalize by hitting three NASTY moves in a row before getting the pinfall and winning the Jr. Title, fulfilling that ‘wunderful’ promise predicted years before.
Psycho: The IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship is yet another New Japan Title that has been mired by constant title changes and a thin division. Omega came close to being the “savior” the division needed, infusing personality and a larger sense of importance into the division as a central heel who started facing new contenders for the title. Unfortunately, Jado & Gedo blew their load on pushing KUSHIDA as the mega face hero of the division and couldn’t wait until Wrestle Kingdom for him to offically win the title. So KUSHIDA gets that same moment, only a bit tarnished by the fact that he already won and lost it.
With the belt on KUSHIDA, it seems the division was starting to repair itself of the hot-shot style of the last few years, and his eventual loss to BUSHI would have been a good launching point for a new champ. Not to mention it helped bolster the threat level of Los Ingobernables de Japon. But the belt went back to KUSHIDA to set-up for this big match with Takahashi.
It wasn’t until I heard the name Kamaitachi that I realized why this guy looked so familiar, and why this match seemed like such a big deal. But it was more than just Kamaitachi. It’s the story behind it, about how he went to Mexico as a Young Lion and became a rising star, and now he’s returned a man, using his real name and boasting a brand new bizarre personality. On top of that, it makes it a natural transition for him to be a part of LIJ coming from CMLL fame. So perhaps New Japan saw the bigger potential with Kamaitachi, and decided to give the belt back to KUSHIDA so they can properly launch what could be a renaissance era in New Japan’s Junior Heavyweight division?
If so, touche.
This one starts hot and heavy, with KUSHIDA kicking it to the max, which really puts over how much of a danger Hiromu Takahashi is supposed to be. He happily delivers on his end as he ruthlessly controls KUSHIDA, battering him methodically and shutting him down at every turn*******
That armbar counter on the outside was insane. KUSHIDA showing a more vicious side than we are used to, making his Hoverboard Lock seem more brutal. What this really does is put over Takahashi like a monster, as this is a submission that bigger stars have submitted to in the same position the former Kamaitachi was in. When he powers out of the Hoverboard lock mutliple times, the pain-staking anguish in his face, you can hear the fans being convinced of Takahashi’s legitimacy. The crowd finally comes alive for real in this match during this finishing struggle which develops across a chain of different attempts to end it into a stiff punch-off. And then Takahashi sticks it through for a drilling Roll-up Driver(or whatever the proper name of the move is) that is the beginning of the end. And despite a blatant botch in the middle, a new star is made in NJPW within one match. And perhaps…the division can begin to reach heights that it once saw in the 90s.
Or if nothing else, KUSHIDA and Takahashi will remain ludicrously over while the Jr. Heavyweight division just kind of languishes like it always do.
Hiromu Takahashi Over Kushida Following The Time Bomb.
Segment 8 – NEVER Openweight Championship – Katsuyori Shibata (c) vs. Hirooki Goto
DDT: Remember when I was talking about those rematches I didn’t really want to see? This was one of them. Not because the matches were bad; far from it. They were almost always fantastic. The problem is that…well, seen it, been there, done that. Not really interested anymore. There was absolutely nothing these two could do with each other that I haven’t already seen them do before, and possibly better. Add the fact that, before the major falling out of New Japan and NOAH this was going to be Shibata vs. Go Shiozaki or Nakajima, and my disappointment was at an all-time high.
Hey, remember that middle finger I talked about? Straight to me.
Goto has been a choke-artist in big matches for most of his career; occasionally he’ll get on a hot streak and win the G1, or the Intercontinental title, or the tag team titles, but every time he was put in a position to be a main event player, whether by his own failures as a character or because management pulled the rug out from underneath him, Goto just failed to get over that hump. Shibata, in the meanwhile, has been joined at the hip with Goto since his return to wrestling from MMA, and with good reason; they were high school friends on the wrestling team. Shibata was the star player, while Goto was the ‘tough out’.
But now Shibata wants nothing to do with Goto anymore, and is done with the comparisons. It’s not hard to see why; Goto has choked so hard that he has aligned himself with CHAOS for seemingly no reason other than to be as close to the Heavyweight Championship as possible. Frankly, that attitude, coupled with Goto lucking his way into last year’s G1 Finals and STILL choking, has caused Shibata to want nothing more to do with Goto. He’s going to defend his belt, get out, get paid, and move on. In fact, that’s what everyone else thought was going to happen, too.
Too bad no one told Hirooki Goto that.
This starts out with some fantastic mat work before they started to get chippy with each other. Chippiness turned to anger, and from there we get to these two beating the ever living shit out of each other. This match, more than anything else, felt like an absolute fight. You felt the frustration and anger these two had for each other, and completely believed that they were willing to take two just to give one. Eventually, Shibata’s nagging injuries catch up to him, and Goto hits an inverted version of his finisher, the GTR. Then he hits it proper, because screw Shibata, the piece of crap! Goto claims the last of the mid-card belts that have eluded him, and looks to get on the right track. Shibata, on the other hand, has long since outgrown the NEVER title; he needed to lose it to move on, and move on he will.
Cewsh: Let me just interject here to say that this match involved lots of hitting. Like, so much hitting. It’s like if you took all of the residual force built up across an entire summer of batting cage hitting in the busiest batting cage of the world, and just released that physical energy directly into the chest of two men who ABSOLUTELY DO NOT GIVE A FUCK.
These kinds of matches are my least favorite thing about Japanese wrestling. Not because they’re not impressive, (they’re so impressive,) and not because they can’t be good, (they’re usually good,) but because it hearkens back to a totally different era and just seems out of place on the shows these days. If these two guys can take this much punishment, why the hell are they not to co-rulers of the free world, laughing together as the armies of the world are dashed against their mighty chests like waves on a beach?
At any rate, this was the best match these two have ever had together, and they have had ever so many. Hopefully now they can have some time off from each other to regrow the blood vessels in their chests and remember what it’s like to have teeth.
80 out of 100
Cewsh’s Seal of Approval
Psycho: At this point, I feel completely comfortable saying that Katsuyori Shibata is my current favorite wrestler in NJPW. He has been for a while, it was just hard for me to put him above the likes of Ishii and Nakamura. But every Shibata match feels like a big fight, no matter who his opponent is or whether there’s a title on the line. I feel like I’m either going to witness someone being murdered or that same person being murdered and resurrected to then murder Shibata back. The Shibata/Goto rivalry definitely keeps that spirit alive, but it’s also been done to death. Not only that, but Hirooki Goto is the resident Love/Hate wrestler of New Japan, which basically means you’re tired of him and don’t want to see him win until he does win, and you usually accept because the match was pretty great and he deserves SOMETHING.
There’s not much to be said here about this match that can’t be said about other Shibata/Goto matches. It’s incredibly stiff, and these two endanger their lives for the right to be called the baddest of badasses. Thankfully, it’s a formula that never truly gets old, because even though you might have seen it countless times, you’re drawn into the sickening blows within minutes. Particularly what I love about Shibata is how deadly his strikes are treated. In most back-and-forth strike battles, one person gives a few kicks or forearms to then receive some, and it continues until someone gets that last clothesline in that knocks their opponent down. With Shibata, it’s usually the other person levies strikes into him that Shibata powers through for one, focused, devastating blow that cripples his victims. To me, this adds a layer to the Strong Style that is not seen much these days, and creates a mythos surrounding Shibata.
To Goto’s credit, he brings the intensity and proves why he deserves to be spoken about when it comes to kings of strong style. His headbutts are relentless, and once he starts firing on all cylinders, his matches become painful to watch in the best way possible. Considering their last bout at Wrestle Kingdom ended with Goto winning, and Goto seems to win at the Dome when the other person should, I was really pulling for Shibata to stick it through here and have a strong Wrestle Kingdom title defense. But the finish, where Goto obliterates Shibata with headbutts until there’s no life left, was so believable that there was no logical ending other than for Goto to cover Shibata for the 1-2-3. And while I don’t think the right man won, they damn sure made Goto look deserving.
Hirooki Goto Over Katsuyori Shibata Following SO MUCH HITTING.
Segment 9 – IWGP Intercontinental Championship – Tetsuya Naito (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
DDT: Oh boy, speaking of detailed, subtle backstories…okay. There’s just no way around this; prepare for walls of text.
Long time readers of this site should probably know all about both these guys especially the ballad of Hiroshi Tanahashi; how Tanahashi emerged from nowhere to become the top-draw of New Japan and financially save the company from itself, how he is absolutely beloved by virtually every single fan at every single show, from men to women to children. How Tanahashi is such a crowd-pleasing sport that he constantly engages in air-guitar antics that he has gone on record to say he doesn’t like to do. Yet along came Kazuchika Okada, and a bitter feud for the top spot over the better part of five years took place before our very eyes. They went from neck-to-neck, to Okada in the lead, to Tanahashi in the lead, back to neck-and-neck, but in the end, at last year’s Dome show, Okada finally overthrew Tanahashi as the Ace of New Japan.
Ever since then, Tanahashi has been going around calling himself Ace more than ever, picking fights with Kenny Omega, struggling to defeat rival promotion invaders like Marufuji, and after years of being a bit of a lone wolf, forming a pseudo stable with Mike Elgin and Juice Robinson. He even debuted a new theme song for this event; replacing the iconic High Energy with a terrible rendition of a similar tune with “Go Ace!” blazing on the speakers, like it was the theme to a Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers episode. That should automatically endear it to me; it doesn’t. It absolutely stinks, both the song and the whole ‘Ace’ act of trying to hard…and I’m absolutely convinced that is the point.
Tanahashi is in a similar position to John Cena. He has been wildly successful in New Japan, to the point of having some success outside the company. He just hit 40, yet can seemingly still go. And yet…and yet…he is no longer the Hiroshi Tanahashi of old. Oh, there’s still enough there that he will always be a threat, but he is no longer the man who can carry a company on his back, who can oppose the forces that seek to overthrow Japan with a Dragon Screw, a Texas Cloverleaf, and a High Fly Flow. He’s no longer the New Japan Ace, he—like Yuji Nagata before him—is now a New Japan Dad. One of the old guys who will stick in the main event scene for a few more years, then quietly fade further and further down the card, until like Yuji Nagata this year, he is in the Prelim Rumble match, a forgotten hero of a forgotten time.
Like John Cena, Tanahashi refuses, absolutely REFUSES to admit that.
Tetsuyo Naito, however, is in the exact opposite camp.
From the time of his debut, he was hailed as a future main eventer. When he broke away from tag wrestling and went on his own, he was hailed as the next Hiroshi Tanahashi. Tanahashi himself encouraged this notion, and took over a mentorship of the young man. The two even had several high-profile matches and traded wins a few times; Naito even defeated Tanahashi to win the prolific G1 Climax tournament. Yet the fans…just didn’t like him. Maybe it was them perceiving Naito being on a pair of railroads whatever anyone’s wishes. Maybe Naito’s lackluster performances turned them off. Whatever the reason, the fans turned on Naito hard, to the point of them voting him out of his rightfully earned main event spot at the 2014 Dome show.
Naito sailed off to Mexico, and fell in with a bunch of Rudos who were in the exact same position; men who were to be beloved babyfaces, but were utterly despised by the fans. However, rather than acquiesce to the fans’ or the office’s demands, those men refused to be labeled by anyone but themselves. With this new attitude of seemingly not caring about anything, and even making a mockery of the prestige New Japan carries itself with, Naito returned to Japan to start the Japanese chapter of this now international stable:
Los Ingobernables de Japon.
Naito invited every other misfit and misfortunate he could find into his chapter of these twisted rule breakers: BUSHI, who should have been a junior star but NJPW couldn’t be bothered to find his number; EVIL, a man left to languish in the United States so that New Japan could have their uninterrupted run of ‘top guys’; SANADA, a man who was tailor made for an era of New Japan that no longer was, and had to slum it in the indies for the majority of his career; and most recently Hiromu Takahashi, who like EVIL was sent to a foreign land and promptly forgotten. Ironically, these disrespectful acts get as much praise from the fans as they do revilement. LIJ merchandise is one of New Japan’s hottest selling commodities, and people are as likely to cheer Naito as they are to boo him. Naito doesn’t care; his mission is to correct what he sees are the mistakes of New Japan, one match at a time. And if the fans cheer while he does it…well, they were always a fickle bunch.
For Tanahashi, this is about setting his once-chosen pupil back on the right path and, if he can bear to whisper the truth in the silent dark, reclaim his glory and convince the office, the locker room, the fans, and most importantly, HIMSELF, that he is still the Ace of New Japan. For Naito, it is about continuing his quest to ‘fix’ New Japan and paint it in his image. The opening video package of Los Ingobernables, looking like supervillains from an episode of Kamen Rider, show just what kind of a future Naito has planned. The fact that his entrance video was the Eye of Sauron looking down towards everyone in the building didn’t exactly make the image any less pronounced.
The match itself…it was art. From the moment Tanahashi refused a clean break and was promptly BOOED they were setting the tone. Maybe Tanahashi wasn’t as altruistic in his motives as we first thought. Then Naito would do something even more dickish, including slapping and spitting on Tanahashi, all to remind us that, whatever Tanahashi’s motives or actions, Naito was far, far worse.
Yet they did more than mirror each other with dickishness; they mirrored each other with offense. Both went after the leg of the other, not to set up a leg submission (though they both could and did use them) but for a subtler strategy; Naito to keep Tanahashi from spamming the High Fly Flow, and Tanahashi to keep Naito from crawling out of position of the same maneuver. Yet even still Tanahashi kept making mistakes. Corino was begging for Tanahashi to go after, not the left leg out of habit, but Naito’s injured right one. Naito kept doing dickish things, but he never had to outright cheat. Not even at the end, when he nailed Tanahashi with not one, but two Destinos and finally laid out the old man.
Then Naito, the ultimate jerk, the cruelest man in wrestling, did the absolute worst thing he could possibly do to Tanahashi. He didn’t grab the microphone and brag, didn’t make a show of mocking Tanahashi. No, he fist-bumped his chest, gave him a nod, and in public, silently told Tanahashi, “Good game, kid.”
Good game, kid. Hiroshi Tanahashi. The Ace of New Japan. One of the greatest professional wrestlers to ever live, the man who dragged a company from financial hard times to being the closest thing to a competitor WWE has today.
Good. Game. Kid.
Cewsh: I am upset.
I’m sure it’s hard for many of you out there to really feel attached to kayfabe storylines after being innudated over the years with so much behind the scenes information. It’s like a magician showing you how a trick is done in detail and then performing it for you and expecting a big reaction. Not only that, but watching and reviewing so much wrestling over the years makes things run together and look the same in a way that is hard to combat, and is the reason most wrestling reviewers don’t last very long at it. So when a storyline, or a character, comes along that we can truly grab ahold of and believe in, it’s impossible to describe how wonderful it is. The elation of cheering for someone because you really, really want them to win, rather than just wanting the world to know you like them. For a lot of smarks out there, the Summer of Punk was a moment like that, where something skewed so close to being the reality we all wanted, that it let people believe again, just for a moment. For me, it has always just been Hiroshi Tanahashi.
I won’t go in to the whole backstory of Tanahashi here, (but I did write an article about it!) Over the years, Tanahashi has almost become an unofficial mascot of Cewsh Reviews, as i’ve interjected him pretty much everywhere I could get the chance, and relentlessly pushed for all of you to watch his matches. The truth is that Hiroshi Tanahashi is the best wrestler I have ever seen, and the first time I saw him in a big match, Wrestle Kingdom III to be precise, I knew he was my dude. As New Japan soared into the stratosphere on his back, it was thrilling, because I knew that the main event of every New Japan show would be something I could truly get invested in. It was a guarantee of excellence, and if you have read our New Japan reviews through the years, it probably is obvious that I was there for Tanahashi first and foremost. It was my favorite run of any wrestler and any company in wrestling history.
Now we’re here. New Japan is moving on, as it must, and new stars are in the spotlight. Hiroshi Tanahashi is never going to be the true ace of this company again, and over the past year, my interest has waned a bit, as he has floundered without much to do. So when I heard that Tetsuya Naito, the disrespectful fuckboy that he is, was coming for Tanahashi to show him up and ruin his legacy, I got fired up, man. You don’t talk to Tanahashi like that! You’re about to get High Fly Flown, motherfucker! This became EASILY my most looked forward to match on this card, and is a big, big reason why Cewsh Reviews is back and active for the first time in months. The match itself was amazing, of course, and reflected all the best that Tanahashi has ever been. He and Naito, the man who was groomed to replace him only to throw it all away, went AT it, and they flowed so smoothly together that it was like Tanahashi was fighting his shadow self. They pushed each other to the limit in a way that few but Okada have ever managed to bring out of Tanahashi. It was fucking awesome.
But in the end, Tanahashi lost. And with him changing his famous theme song as well, it’s hard not to take the loss as the end of an era, both for him and for me. The age of Tanahashi is done. My belief is wavering. But in my heart, Tanahashi will always be my dude. The Ace of My Universe. And yeah, I know that sounds lame, but caring usually does.
92 out of 100
Cewsh’s Download Seal of Approval.
Tetsuya Naito Over Hiroshi Tanahashi Following A Destino.
Segment 10 – IWGP Heavyweight Championship – Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Kenny Omega
DDT: And here it is; the match that arguably brought everyone to the Dome, and the match I had no interest in seeing. At least, I thought I didn’t. Yet the opening video package, helpfully subtitled in English, did a lot to help force me to get pumped. They went with a very strong narrative; of Okada being the man Chosen by Destiny, who wished to show the world the Strength of New Japan, and would be the one who carried the company into the future. Kenny Omega, however, was the Man Who Defied Destiny; someone destined to fail, yet became a success everywhere he went, and now found himself the first Gaijin to main event the Tokyo Dome in 10 years, and only the fifth man to do so. Riki Choshu, Scott Norton, Josh Barnett, Brock Lesnar, and now Kenny Omega; that is quite the prestigious list to belong to. In light of this success that Destiny said he should never have, why should Okada be the one to take the company global, and not Omega?! Omega spoke Japanese better than Okada spoke English, after all; and wrestling is a primarily English speaking market. Omega has also made headway into several independent wrestling markets, from America to Canada to Europe. If anyone could start a New Japan Wrestling Empire, it was him, not some company creation!
Okada simply answered back that Omega could never defeat him, because despite all his trials and tribulations, Omega had no idea the burden Okada himself had to endure, that Omega couldn’t know. Omega was fighting for his own ego and pride; Okada was fighting for a very way of life, a way of life that fed, clothed, entertained, and brought together every wrestler, manager, trainer, commentator, cameraman, and fan from across the nation of Japan, and throughout the world. It was the Burden of Destiny, and a man who defied destiny—even heroically so—could never hope to bare it.
It was intense, it was emotional, I was getting goose-bumps; in the span of three-and-a-half minutes, I was all gung-ho about a match I wasn’t even slightly interested in seeing.
Then Kenny Omega did a Terminator entrance skit that was so lame Triple H would have blushed in embarrassment, and all the good-will drained out of me. Well, at least Okada’s entrance is still amazing, so it has that going for it, I guess.
Let’s get this out of the way, right here, and right now. This was not a ‘6-Star match’ or whatever Dave ‘The Troll’ Meltzer gave it. It was not perfect in any way, shape, or form. It had several GLARING problems, mostly towards the beginning. They locked up for the sake of locking up; Kenny’s exaggerated mannerisms and finger-wags just left you with that impression that the Man Who Defied Destiny is taking this match as seriously as he would a debate over his favorite episode of Dragon Ball Z. Every slap, hair-pull and spit feels like a low-rent version of what Naito did just one match before, not like a man who is trying to humiliate a champion he has no respect for.
Nor is this all on Omega; Okada showed no urgency in this match at all. When he chased Omega around the ring, for example, he has this blank expression on his face that conveys neither anger nor frustration, just a tired obedience to this trope of professional wrestling at this juncture. Then when Okada lazily grabs a table and looks over his shoulder this way and that, I’m left confused by what he is doing, both in kayfabe (why is Okada grabbing a table?) and in “shoot” (why is he looking like a lost puppy?). It wasn’t until Kevin Kelly reminded me that Omega drove Okada through a table that I realized what Okada was doing…and then I just started screaming at Okada being so lazy about getting revenge on a man who tried to break his neck. I hated this when Jericho and Rollins did it, I hate it now. When someone drives you onto or through something, sporting contests go out the window; it’s time for a mother-f’er to die.
And then, just when I’m ready to write this match off as a case of the world clearly going insane around me, Kenny Omega hits the single most beautiful missile dropkick I have ever seen…to the back of Okada’s head. Okada, rather than do a dramatic kick at two, sells it like it was death, and only survives by getting his feet on the ropes. From there, these two went into pure madness, as the two smoothest professional wrestlers in the world today have finally finished doing the Mandatory-15-Minute-Feeling-Out-Process, and are allowed to be what they are; the two smoothest professional wrestlers on the planet today.
Omega double-stomps a table onto Okada’s groin, because he’s an ass-hole. Then he sets Okada on a table, goes back into the ring, does a somersault over the ropes and EATS SHIT LANDING RIGHT THROUGH THE TABLE JESUS CHRIST WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT OMEGA YOU COULD HAVE DIED JUST WHY?! Okada takes control of this match, hitting some gorgeous dropkicks of his own, but somehow ends up eating a dragon superplex from the top-rope. Mixed feelings filled me, as I appreciate that Okada HAD to eat some kind of big move to put them both back on an even footing. Even allowing that; a Dragon Suplex? From the top-rope? And to top it all off, Okada went right back on offense almost immediately.
Then these two hit the finishing run, and the complaints didn’t matter anymore; not the questionable spots, the dumb decisions, or even who was in this match. It was these two building drama and tension with each new move they did, stopping my heart with each Pumping Knee Strike, with each Rainmaker, with each dropkick, with each attempt at the One-Winged Angel, my eyes refused to even blink, for fear that in that split second of darkness, I would miss the vital moment where they went from one move to the other.
The absolute highlight was Okada absolutely REFUSING to let go of Omega’s wrist, no matter how many times Omega kicked, punched, kneed and even clawed at his foe. He FINALLY had Omega right where he wanted him, and this man was going to get his; because no man can defy destiny forever. Omega tried and tried to hit the One-Winged Angel, but he couldn’t keep Okada up; Omega had no idea of the burden that Okada bore, so how could his shoulders bare Okada? Okada wasn’t discouraged by Omega kicking out of the Rainmaker, because Omega was merely the Man Who Defied Destiny, and no man can defy destiny forever. Okada? Okada was CHOSEN by destiny. From the beginning, there was only one way this match could end.
And in that end, Destiny had the final say. Okada stood tall and proud, victorious over his foe. Glory to the Man of Destiny; Glory to the Ace; Glory to the Champion of New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Yet, is the Deifier of Destiny truly done? That is the tragedy of those who choose to go against fate; they can never stop, for to stop would be to admit it was all for not. Besides, Destiny’s Champion may have been victorious, but he never once received the Defier’s best shot. This was not the end; this was only the beginning…
Cewsh: DDT nailed it. Regardless of what you think of Japanese wrestling, either one of these guys, or New Japan in general, this is like to be the biggest must see match of this year. Some people are lauding it as one of the greatest matches to ever take place, which is going a bit far, but you can easily see why they would feel that way. This is something intensely special. The wrestling world will forever be split up between those who have seen it and those who haven’t. Don’t be left out of the cool kid’s club.
97 out of 100
Cewsh’s Download Seal of Approval
Psycho’s List of Things That Were Awesome About This Match
-Omega trying to suplex Okada into the barricade, then getting DDT’d
-Okada being quick to bend the rules
-High level of counters, but not in a spot-fest manner. Everything is cleverly mapped out
-Sickening dropkick to the back of okada’s head
-That crazy moonsault to the outside of the ring
-Omega is relentless, has Okada on the ropes more than his average competitor, which makes Okada look all the more tough for surviving it all and coming back to fight
-Okada having the best sell of the count-out tease so far
-Double stomp on the table is one of the most sickening spots I’ve ever witnessed, and the way he broke the table a bit with his boots makes it look even more hellish
-Dropkick to the outside
-Okada being the first to bring the table out making the damage Kenny does with it all the more heavy
-The drama built around the table set up outside, how painful the table spot looked. The intensity of the OWA through the table tease
-Big springboard dropkick across the ring
-Omega selling the back after the table spot, like not being able to lift Okada to the top easily, and targeting Okada’s midsection for the OWA
-Super Dragon Suplex
-The exchange of knees and Rainmaker attempts
-Omega kicking out of the Rainmaker was unbelievable. I thought that had to be it.
-This match does a lot to sell the idea that if Kenny Omega hits the OWA, the match is over by default, and the fact that he doesn’t hit it does so much for the story here. It makes any rematch much more significant than it would have been otherwise.
-Okada holding on to Kenny Omega as he launches knee after knee into his skull to take him out with another Rainmaker. Which is also brilliant because this and the Rainmaker before makes you believe that it WOULD have been the final blow, were it not for Okada being too decimated to make the cover
-Okada’s neck after the match being fucking purple
Kazuchika Okada Over Kenny Omega Following The Rainmaker.
Despite my solioquy for the legacy of Hiroshi Tanahashi, it should be hard to guess from the tone of these reviews that this show was freaking amazing. Wrestle Kingdom has become such an amazingly well engineered show, with a little bit a something for literally everyone watching. You like wacky battle royals with surprise entrants? Here you go! You like seeing old legends fight young bucks? Here you go! You want high flying, hard hitting, and then something majestically amazing in the main event? HERE. YOU. GO. They tick off all of the boxes and somehow structure it so that even though it’s a 4 hour show that starts a 1 in the morning, you don’t even notice how long you’ve been watching it until the sun comes up and your boss is angrily calling you. So no matter the nit picks or how individual matches played out, January 4th is simply the best wrestling experience of the year. If you’re not on board, what the hell are you even doing with yourself.
Cewsh’s Final Score: 78.9 out of 100
Dramatic Dream Thoughts:
This was one of the best Dome Shows of all time. From a decent opening that was fun to watch and got you hooked on the show, to the best four-match stretch, perhaps in professional wrestling history. Each four pairs of these eight man were absolutely determined to outdo each other, and yet they wanted to do so while retaining their own unique identity. KUSHIDA/Hiromu was a car-crash sprint with superb submission work sprinkled in; Goto/Shibata was absolute violence to a backdrop of deep, personal conflicts; Tanahashi/Naito was two men expressing the insecurities, anger, and desires in physical form that you could not look away from; Okada/Omega, by any standard, by any measurement, by any level of vitriol or appreciation, was a spectacle.
And that is the real beauty of this show. Most shows around the world feel like everyone doing the same style, just to different degrees of competency, whether that is WWE style, traditional lucha libre style, Mexican brawls, Japanese Death Matches, or American Indy Sprints. But Wrestle Kingdom? I can’t find any two matches that look or feel exactly the same. Everything was different, everything was unique, and thus, everything stood out. Yet order and hierarchy was kept; none of the undercard matches felt bigger than the Junior Heavyweight title match, which was inferior to the NEVER Openweight title match, which was inferior to the Intercontinental, which was inferior to the Heavyweight title.
Unique, yet orderly. Different, yet approachable. It shouldn’t have been Omega vs. Okada that got six stars, but if Meltzer wanted to give the show itself that distinction…well, I wouldn’t disagree. As for myself:
OVERALL RATING: 5 NEW JAPAN LOGOS out of 5
Overall, this show was fucking awesome. I’d probably make an argument for liking ALL the top Title matches more than last year, but there was something special about the two headlining matches that makes this one stand out on its own.
Overall Grade: A-