Welcome cats and kittens to yet another installment of the only reviews that use the word “Swag” as a verb, an adjective and an exclamation during sex, Cewsh Reviews! We have a special treat for you tonight, as we focus on the most important non-WWE show of 2014, NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 8! Now, if you’re a regular Cewshketeer, you’ve no doubt seen us begging, demanding, cajoling and outright seducing you to buy this show, so that you could share in one of the biggest events of the wrestling year. Some of you did, most of you didn’t, but regardless of whether you’re reliving the wild night that you saw for yourself, or are looking to find out just what all the fuss is about, we’ve got you covered. We have a battle to crown the true star of this generation of Japanese wrestling, a battle to decide who their replacement will be, blood feuds dating back to childhood, family wide feuds spanning decades, and a wacky dude and his new demon friend taking on Japan’s most ill tempered badass. There’s so much going on that we did a whole preview about it already, and if that didn’t get you hyped, maybe this will. One of these wrestlers is USED AS THE POLE IN A POLE DANCING ENTRANCE. What the shit are we waiting for?
Cewsh: HERE WE GO, BABY. Wrestle Kingdom 8 is here at long last.
Now, if you read our Wrestle Kingdom preview, then you already know a lot of the details behind these feuds, and you should be able to make sense of what you just saw in that video. Even so, we’ll be giving you all the details you need to know for each match as we go along. The important thing now is just to soak it all in and get a sense for the fact that this is the very biggest night in all of Japanese wrestling.
Defrost: I love how this show opens up. First an epic opening video, then a traditional Japanese band, followed by a poor man’s crazy Pride lady singing her way through the entire card. It had me laughing at whatever ungodly time in the morning it was when I was watching it live.
Cewsh: First thing’s first. In October of last year, Alex Shelley have a nerve damage injury, sidelining both himself and his electric tag team with KUSHIDA, known as the Time Splitters. This is his return to the promotion, and the first of two big returns on this show, (the other being Hirooki Goto later on.) So how do they reintroduce the team? Back To The Future homage. Because fuck yeah, that’s why.
Now, if there’s one recurring problem in New Japan, it’s that, in their efforts to keep every division interesting, they run with hot feuds until that feud gets stale. That isn’t a problem in and of itself, but what happens is their champions wind up running out of competition that anyone wants to see them face after 6 months to a year. In order to combat this, New Japan keeps a steady stream of new faces coming through their doors all year long, and you can see that here, as the Young Bucks arrive on the scene to spice up a Jr. Tag division that has been dominated by these three other teams for the better part of a year. And thank god they did bring them in, too. Because this match is ALL about the Young Bucks.
Now, I’m not going to belabor the point that we’ve always been huge Young Bucks supporters. The fact is that they may be the single best tag team anywhere in the world right now, and their incredibly strong ranking in the CRL 100 this year reflects not only the quality of their performances, but the sheer volume of work they’ve put in across the country and now across the globe. Luckily, that seems to have prepared them for this moment, because they entirely stole the show, even in the return match for the fan favorite Time Splitters. Not that the Time Splitters get lost in the shuffle, or either of the other teams for that matter. This was a full on downhill sprint of a match that was great fun for all and never stopped to take a breath.
Back in the glory days of TNA, one of the things they perfected was the opening match. On each PPV, they would kick things off with a short, fast paced thrill ride that drew you into the show, without having a ton at stake to wear you out emotionally before you got to the good stuff. They called it, “Car Crash TV” and the idea was to hook people’s attention so that you can sell them on other feuds while you have them. Obviously that idea can be taken to extremes that ruin the point, (see: all other periods of TNA,) but here that principle is applied in the best way possible. This won’t be anyone’s favorite match on the show, but it got me pumped up for more action and made the Young Bucks looks like absolute stars. Mission accomplished.
Defrost: KUSHIDA and Alex Shelley came out to the Back to the Future theme in a Delorean. KUSHIDA was dressed like Marty McFly. This is already *****. I am not a big watcher of PWG, but I am told that the Young Buck’s act works great there. I think they need to grow on me some more. I did like the Superkicks to stop the Russian National Anthem. Best spot on every show is everyone politely standing and applauding for the Russian National Anthem.
This is a fun spotfest to open up the show. Junior matches tend to have trouble at the Dome, though notably Prince Devitt has never really had that traditional problem. The crowd gets up for the big spots and when everyone jumps in the ring at the 19 count to beat the countout. Other than that the crowd stayed pretty silent for this one. That always hurts a match. I thought the match they had the next day, NJPW ran Korakuen ala the Raw after Mania, was better than this one. That match set up the Time Splitters as #1 Contenders.
Cewsh: The preview probably made it pretty clear that this isn’t a match with a whole lot going for it. It’s essentially a heel vs. heel tag match featuring no actual Japanese people. One of the teams features a rad biker dude who is really coming into his own, (Lance Archer,) and his goofy sidekick who is great at suplexes and less great at facial expressions, (Davey Boy Smith Jr.). The other team features a walking sleeping pill, (Karl Anderson,) and his random big guy teammate of the month, (Doc Gallows.) All of that getting mixed together and thrown out as the second match on the card really has no right being anything other than a forgettable bathroom break. But that’s why they don’t have the matches on paper, isn’t it?
This was a shockingly enjoyable match from start to finish. Most of that can be credited to the Killer Elite Squad, who have become the best big man tag team anywhere in the world for quite some time. They look like monsters throwing Karl Anderson around; especially when Lance Archer sends him halfway to Jupiter before demolishing the poor man with one of the nastiest chokeslams I’ve ever seen.
In the end it’s the Bullet Club who sneak their way to victory, which isn’t a huge shock since KES have feuded extensively with pretty much everyone they could for the moment. But based on the reactions they got, and the continuing quality of their work, don’t be surprised to see KES as babyfaces in the very near future.
76 out of 100
Defrost: Did you know that Scott Hall follows Karl Anderson on twitter? Also he lives in a big fucking house. Just putting that out there. Jim Ross would have said the words “hoss” and “slobberknocker” many, many times during this one. I’d say the crowd reaction here was hurt by the fact that you had an all Gaijin heel lineup, but the next night the crowd got super behind Archer and DBS Jr against the Bullet Club.
Your level of enjoyment of the match depends on how into matches best described with those two words you are. Also a certain toleration for outside interference is needed. Not as much as when the Bullet Club’s leader would wrestle later in the show, but still a level of tolerance. So really depending on taste this might be your thing. I could see a big WWE fan getting into this. For me it was fine. Didn’t offend me at all. Didn’t light my world on fire. Ready to get to the next thing once it was over. It was there might be the best description. Points for Machine Gun going up for a choke slam higher than anyone I have ever seen by the way.
Cewsh: Years from now, when we all gather to look back on this golden era of New Japan, and we talk about all the great matches, great shows and great feuds, there is going to come a point where people look at these major cards and ask, “Wait, what the fuck is Rob Conway doing there?” And those of us who were watching will just kind of shrug, sigh and say, “Well, NJPW wanted to co promote with the NWA for a bit, but Rob Conway is the best the NWA could get their hands on.” Then we’ll all go and get some sweet space ice cream on our dinosaur cars or whatever because it will be the future and I can make up whatever I want in this scenario.
So yes, Rob Conway and the NWA are back again to rub their American superiority in the face of the Japanese public. And I have to say that it’s really interesting to see who that kind of, “FOREIGNERS ARE EVIL BOO” kind of gimmick looks like when it’s applied to us, rather than by us. They’re a lot more respectful about it, for one thing, even though Conway comes out dressed like someone caught him backstage humping an American flag, and he just decided to come out to the ring still covered in it.
Conway’s opponent here is the lovable lariat luminary Satoshi Kojima. Conway beat him once before, which was pretty goddamn humiliating, so now Kojima is back to see that Conway’s head is removed from his shoulders with the greatest of care. And spoiler alert: that’s exactly what he does.
Now, I know I’ve given Conway and the NWA a ton of shit here and in past reviews, but this may actually be the best noteworthy match of his career. His is entire competent, and seems to have finally gotten comfortable with being a heel in front of Japanese crowds, which is about as far from Kentucky crowds as you can possibly get. Kojima wins, Harley Race decks the president of the NWA for being a dickhead and all is well in the world.
75 out of 100
Defrost: The best part of this match was after it was over to see how happy Kojima was posing for pictures with the belt and Harley Race. The second best part was before the match when Race hit NWA President Bruce Tharpe. Honorable Mention goes to Hiroyoshi Tenzan making himself useful for once taking out Jax Dane on the outside of the ring. The match is fun if you really like Kojima and think seeing him win is cool. Outside that not really much too this one. Not even wacky fun entrances like the other matches.
Conway is solid, but that whole OVW style really doesn’t fit at all in NJPW in terms of match quality. To his credit, he does get himself a noticeable amount of heel heat. You can’t say he didn’t get himself over because he did, but in rating workrate for the sake of this review the match was nothing special.
Cewsh: This is the only match on the show that people really seem to be ripping to shreds from what I’ve read around the net, and it’s hard to blame them. After all, neither of the Gracie Brothers are trained in professional wrestling, and Sakuraba only wrestles shoot/work hybrid matches. So really the hopes of this match being anything watchable hinge entirely upon the strength of the story they tell, and the performance of Old Man Nagata.
Based on those complaints that i’ve read, people seem to be holding against this match that it isn’t much of a wrestling match in a traditional sense. It certainly isn’t, but I think that kind of misses the point. The story here is rooted in a reality that everyone watching understands. Once upon a time, the first family of mixed martial arts, the Gracie’s, ran up against a little Japanese man that they just had no answer for. He beat every single Gracie who dared to stand in front of him while proclaiming that professional wrestlers WERE tougher than mixed martial artists, and the Gracie’s failure to prove him wrong was a thorn in their collective feet for years and years, garnering him the nickname “Gracie Hunter” and making him a Japanese underdog hero. Now the Gracie’s have come into professional wrestling’s house to prove their way of life superior in a way just as humiliating for Sakuraba as what he did to them. That’s a deep rooted feud dating back 20 years that has come to roost here, and with that fixed firmly in mind, it’s easy to see this match for what it is. A story driven spectacle.
Nagata, as Sakuraba’s non MMA fighter second, spends most of this match trying his best, but just getting annihilated by the skilled and in control Gracie Brothers. They beat up on him while constantly looking back to Sakuraba to make it clear that their only real focus is him. But when Sakuraba does get into the match, the story is the same as it always has been. Somehow the smaller, older Japanese man is just impossible to beat for anyone named “Gracie”. And that’s when the Gracie’s plan becomes clear. After getting Nagata back into the ring, one of the Gracie’s does a judo throw to get Nagata on the ground and then promptly begins using the corner of his shirt to choke Nagata half to death.
The Gracie’s get disqualified, but in their mind they’ve gotten a measure of revenge by using pro wrestling tactics to embarrass their rivals. Probably. To be honest, a lot of this might just be me projecting a great story on a bunch of people who just kind of halfheartedly kneed each other for 10 minutes.
If you look at this as either a pro wrestling match or a shoot fight, it’s a failure. The Gracie’s were so clearly afraid to do actual harm that much of their offense comes off extremely tame, and the ending comes pretty much out of nowhere. All of that makes this kind of hard to apply a rating to, but I’m going to give it a fairly bad one. Good story, bad match. At least it got one thing right.
52 out of 100
Defrost: This was special in its way. The easy clubhouse leader for WMOTY, it would be easy to just pencil it in now if it were not for the fact that a rematch is on its way. Yippee.
Nagata and Sakuraba have a great entrance where the basically mock the Gracie train with a bunch of kids wearing Machine masks. And dear God is it all downhill from there. No one in the Dome cared. Why would they? These weren’t even famous Gracies, plus the whole fake MMA thing is so dead in NJPW. The way this was worked the Gracies looked horrified when worked kicks came near them and everything looked so fake and badly executed. It was terrible and boring which is not a good combo. Maybe had they gone a more just sparring route without finishes or something it could have been better. Probably not. The fake MMA stuff looked so fake. When something is this bad you at least hope for so bad it is entertaining in its awfulness, but there was nothing here to wallow in. It was just bad. And that is without going into how it was booked. A DQ based on a Gi Choke because the Gracies didn’t understand the rules. Just ugh. Then the even worse news after the match with promos saying this feud would continue. I wish it would just go away.
Cewsh: The Great Muta does not have friends. The reason for that is pretty obvious since, in kayfabe terms, he’s basically a demon from hell who is summoned to Earth to do violence in wrestling rings. His intentions are NEVER clear, and he has made a career of being predictably unpredictable to the delight of fans worldwide. So if you’re wondering why exactly the Great Muta has agreed to partner up with Toru Yano, (a comedy heel beloved by fans for being the living incarnation of an internet troll.) Toru Yano is probably just as confused as everyone else.
My guess is that he found that genie lamp that summons the Great Muta, which was last seen being used against Tajiri all the way back in the days of HUSTLE.
But however Yano got Muta on his side, it certainly is a game changer. After all, it really might take a supernatural force to keep Minoru Suzuki from bludgeoning him to death.
Unfortunately, as the the match gets going it becomes apparent that Muta isn’t exactly the Muta of old. He’s moving slowly, and Shelton Benjamin is neutralizing him completely, which is a pretty scathing indictment of anyone’s skills. After trying his best to avoid being stomped into oblivion by the angry badass with the great hair, Yano realizes that Muta isn’t a particularly helpful or dependable partner. As Muta looks on in vague confusion while Suzuki chokes him out, Yano realizes that he has to try the nuclear option. He has to use his unpredictable partner as a weapon to troll his way to victory. And that’s exactly what he does.
The Troll King rides again.
This isn’t a great match. Muta is severely limited, and the entire match is basically built around him, so this is one of those things where you need to be excited just to see the legend if you want to really enjoy things. But the ending was super clever and well done, and it was the kind of feel good midcard fun that a big show like this needs.
69 out of 100
Defrost: The Noblest Brain triumphs again! This is another match where an entrance outshines the match. There were Dragons and everything.
Muto looks good physically, great for his age, but his knees are so shot. Fun to see Muta. Fun to see Yano do Yano things, using his noble brain to win yet again. Minoru Suzuki is a God. This would be like a real solid TV match. If you get the gimmicks this is fun, but I could see this being a big nothing to someone coming in cold or just recognizing the Great Muta or something.
Did I mention the Dragons?
Defrost: The only way to win is KO or Submission. This is probably as good a match as one could expect from Fale. If he ever wants a job with the Fed, he better hope no one there sees the footage of him dragging Makabe all around the ring by a chain wrapped around his throat. This match is probably longer than it needed to be and really not violent enough, even if the way Makabe’s head smashed the floor when he went through the table probably gave him a concussion. Also the submission part of the rules never came into it so just making it a last man standing match would have been better. Also, if you’re going to put someone through a table, and you have Spanish Announcer, how is that not the table you use?
The big spot of the match was Togi beating the 10 count on the Bad Luck Fall which is basically the Border Toss. For months people have been doing stretcher jobs to that move and this was the payoff. Then Togi made the big babyface comeback to take the match. Overall with the big 4 matches coming up the undercard has not set the world on fire.
Cewsh: This is the entire match.
63 out of 100
Cewsh: Once upon a time, there were two high school friends who dreamed of being wrestling stars. They watched the shows together, they worked out together, and they built the foundations for a dream that they would both live out once they graduated. It was a shared dream, and a powerful one at that, but as is often the case one of them always seemed closer to accomplishing it than the other. Katsuyori Shibata was the chosen one, even in those days. The son of a former New Japan midcarder, Shibata was an amatuer wrestling standout on a national level and was eagerly recruited into the dojo as soon as he graduated. Hirooki Goto was also an accomplished amateur wrestler, but nowhere near as much, and he worked hard to qualify for the dojo when he was eligible, but had his debut pushed back 3 years due to a major shoulder injury.
While Goto sat on the shelf, he was forced to watch while his high school friend Shibata debuted in 1999 to great fanfare, receiving a hefty push alongside his new friend Wataru Inoue. Over the next 5 years, Shibata was on the fast track to the top, and the company had him clearly in mind to be one of the faces of the company for years to come. Goto spent that time fighting for any recognition at all.
And then in 2005, the unthinkable happened. With the entire world at his feet, ready for the taking, Shibata walked away from New Japan. By 2007, Shibata had left wrestling altogether for the world of mixed martial arts, throwing away the dream he and Goto had shared. But in his absence, it was Goto who got the opportunity to make a name for himself. Through several gimmick changes and overseas tours, Goto shaped himself through tireless work into a star. What came so naturally to Shibata had been a lifelong struggle for Goto, but by the time Shibata showed back up at New Japan’s door in 2012, it was Goto who stood in the doorway to meet him.
So started the feud that would define both of their careers. These two men clashed numerous times over the months, with absolutely no way of determining who who the better man. The cocksure and dangerous Shibata managed to pick up a singles victory against Goto and held it over him, but Goto would not stop coming back, and several matches finished in draws as these two beat each other too severely to continue. Finally, while Goto was out with an injury, it was decided that his first match upon coming back would be the one that settled this once and for all. One match, with all the weight of the entire careers behind it. The man who had to work for everything against the man who had it all handed to him. Winner take all.
Now, if you’ve never seen these two men wrestle each other, I must warn you that it is not for the weak at heart. These guys hit like mack trucks at full speed, and they are capable of withstanding the kind of damage more commonly associated with elephant attacks. As the storyline revolves around how equal they are, this match is one big back and forth pitched battle with neither man backing down for one second, and we even get the kind of finisher stealing antics that you rarely see in Japan. Ultimately, though, everything comes down to the end, where a beaten to shreds Hirooki Goto digs deep inside himself and produces a flurry of offense that first stuns, and then destroys Shibata, leading up to a Lariat so devastating that I have to use a capital letter to describe it.
Then one Shouten Kai is all it takes to end this rivalry once and for all.
But the real feel good moment here isn’t just that Goto won. After winning the match, Goto is visibly in even worse shape than the man he just beat. And in a show of uncharacteristic affection and respect, Shibata hugs his former friend, puts his arm over his shoulder, and together they walk out of the arena smiling ear to ear.
So there’s a message here. If you want to reconnect with someone from high school, don’t bother with Facebook. Just beat each other half to death in front of a paying crowd. Works every time.
88 out of 100
Cewsh’s Seal of Approval
Defrost: First off we have to start with the pre match video. This is one of the best pre match videos I have ever seen in wrestling. The video tells a great story of how their lives have intersected over and over leading to this match. Starting in 1995 when they first met in wrestling club as kids, to both getting into the New Japan Dojo at the same time, to Shibata getting a push and leaving the company, and Goto rising up in the company and then Shibata’s return. And now Goto’s return from injury. Just an amazing video that dovetails beautifully with the story the match told.
Goto has a pretty simple entrance with drummers and dancers, but it might be my favorite. Shibata has a very simple strategy for this match: Goto is coming back from a broken jaw so Shibata is going to hit him in the jaw over and over as hard as he can. Goto sells this great. Also great was when Goto tried to escape to the outside and Shibata just threw him back in. So awesome. This is a very stiff match as one would have expected going in. You have all the head drops and one count kickouts that have been a staple of their matches, and the headbutts that sound like cannon shots teasing a double knockout. Goto then has to overcome this onslaught to a weakness as well as beat a guy he has failed to beat in three tries. Not only does he have to overcome that, but himself as well. Shibata, leading to this match, had started to use some of Goto’s signature moves and he does them to Goto in this match leading to Shibata’s finisher the PK Kick. But that does not keep Goto down. As a matter of fact, Goto retaliates by showing new variations of some of his moves. The match comes down to where Shibata has one last ace in the hole: the Go 2 Sleep taught to him by the innovator of the move KENTA. Goto is able to fight this off and drop bomb after bomb on Shibata until he finally gets the victory.
Post match they embrace and Shibata helps Goto to the back bringing the whole thing full circle and leaving as friends. Just perfect story telling here.
Cewsh: I’m going to let somebody else talk about the backstory or whatever, because we need to focus on what’s important here. Namely, HOLY SHIT LOOK AT PRINCE DEVITT.
Now look, you guys know me. I’m a great appreciator of the more theatrical aspects of wrestling. And it doesn’t get a whole lot better than this. And with the accompanying words of “Prince is Dead” being circled heavily after the show, what you get is something so perfectly calculated to make me mark out, that I’m suspicious of how much time Prince Devitt has spent reading my Google search history, (I can totally explain about all of that tentacle stuff, Prince, seriously.)
Anyway, this match is primarily about Kota Ibushi, who didn’t feel it necessary to dress up as any Marvel character in particular, or change his identity or die in any way literally or metaphorically. No, Kota Ibushi came here for one simple reason: to stop the reign of Prince Devitt. These two have been heated rivals for years and years, and with Devitt having conquered the entire Jr. division with little effort since turning heel, it was time for his greatest foe to come back and try to put a stop to his bullshit once and for all.
He does exactly that, of course. Because in Japan, there aren’t many actual heels, and the ones that do exist have a tendency to get their comeuppance in a major way. It takes a long fight, and having to deal with the entire Bullet Club stable, but at long last Kota Ibushi takes to the sky and ends the oppressive reign of the Prince of Thieves with one spectacular Phoenix Splash.
These two have had a lot of great matches together, and with other people included as well. This isn’t one of their best, though it was super enjoyable all the way through. And it was pretty goddamn good when you consider that Devitt was so sick coming into this, that many thought they were going to have to cancel the match.
After winning the title, Ibushi gets about 1.3 seconds to enjoy it, before a strange masked man with a guitar case slides into the ring. This man, known as El Desperado, opens his case to reveal a bouquet of black roses, which he presents to Ibushi while gesturing towards the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship. Ibushi gets the message and either agrees to a title match or a goth themed date, or both.
82 out of 100
Cewsh’s Seal of Approval
Defrost: Prematch video feature Ibushi walking around in the rain, putting down his umbrella, and then doing a flip for no reason. Awesome.
Devitt’s entrance puts the Undertaker to shame. Masked robed men come out carrying a coffin and inside is Devitt painted to look like Carnage. The production on this show was second to none.
Devitt worked this match really sick with the flu so grading this match on a curve makes it incredibly impressive. Devitt is accompanied by the entire Bullet Club sans Fale off selling the match with Makabe. Or updating his facebook. Either-or. Remember the copious amounts of Bullet Club interference I mentioned earlier? Well you had to figure that would be a feature of any match featuring the Prince Devitt the leader of the Bullet Club. So if guys getting thrown to the outside and powerbombed on the ring apron while the ref is distracted, or guys just straight up getting in the ring bugs you then a good chunk of this match is not for you. Personally I think it worked well here especially since I think Kota Ibushi is a great babyface. There does come a point where every ref in the company comes out to eject the Bullet Club, and the match is really good from there if you are looking for the more one on one athletic type deal. Really loved the tease of Ibushi leaping into an Avalanche Bloody Sunday which is how Devitt beat him twice already in the Tokyo Dome only this time Ibushi blocked it and Frankensteinered Devitt off the top rope. Devitt comes back, but never gets that Bloody Sunday and Ibushi is able to finish him with a Sitout Last Ride Style Power Bomb and a Phoenix Splash.
After the match the debuting El Desperado came to the ring giving Ibushi a bouquet of black flowers signaling his intention of taking the IWGP Jr Title from him.
Cewsh: While this may not be the main event of this show, this is still the match to focus on the most, because there is a whole goddamn lot going on here. First of all we have Okada, whose rise from embarrassing failure to the single biggest star in Japanese wrestling we have chronicled extensively. He has ridden this rocket ship of popularity to untold heights, and he is the unquestioned top star in the second biggest wrestling promotion on Earth. And then there’s Naito, who was earmarked for the same kind of incredible success as Okada, but due to several injuries, has just not managed to get there. The majority of the story told here has to do with Okada’s attitude as the man on top who has conquered everything and knows that he’s above it all now, and Naito scrapping and clawing for his chance at dethroning Okada as the Ace of this generation. It’s a terrific feud, that both guys play into perfectly, and it’s improved with the very clear knowledge that this is going to be a lasting feud between these two that might span the next 20 years.
I really can’t say enough about this match. It wasn’t too long ago that Okada was being led through these major matches, and was just developing his persona into something that could work on the main event level, and yet here the man is like a force of nature. Every move in his arsenal gets a reaction, every mannerism is staged perfectly, and he just FEELS like a top star in that undefinable way that guys like Ric Flair and The Rock had. It just pours off of him. Just watch his goddamn entrance if you don’t believe me.
Naito, for his part, is always at his best against Okada and that continues to be true here. I think my favorite thing here is that, in most of his matches against seasoned veterans, Okada plays the part of the mega athletic youngster, but here he’s almost playing the Undertaker role as the athletic giant. He bullies Naito throughout much of the match, until Naito comes back with a fire that puts Okada on his heels.
See, the key for Naito is that he’s becoming a master of counter wrestling. He’s developed about 800,000 variations on the DDT, and he uses them again and again to stun Okada out of nowhere. Okada is shown to be stronger, tougher and maybe even faster, but Naito just keeps moving and countering, trying to lock in his new submission move again and again. And in the climactic moment, which I fucking adored, Okada hits him with a Tombstone Piledriver, and picks him up for the Rainmaker. In 95% of Okada’s matches, the Tombstone stuns people too much for them to react before the Rainmaker levels them, but as Okada goes for it, Naito tries one last time for his submission. He gets soooooo close to locking it in and winning the match, but somehow Okada just grabs him out of the air, dead lifts him up, and Tombstones him again. And then boom, Rainmaker.
Okada retaining here means a few things. The first is that Naito probably isn’t ready for the top spot yet, which is backed up by the tepid reactions he got when he returned, (though the crowd was split 50/50 here.) And the second is that Okada is very much THE guy for the foreseeable future. He’s quickly coming up on a full year with the title, with a slew of interesting contenders on the horizon. And hell, when you watch the man have a match like this, it’s impossible to not be excited about the future.
90 out of 100
Cewsh’s Seal of Approval
Defrost: Another amazing video package. Chronicling their careers from black tighted young boys to this match.
By virtue of a fan vote this was moved from the main event to the semi main event yet this was worked like a main event and the last match like a semi main. The crowd seems pretty split in their allegiances during this match. This was by far the longest match on the show going more than half an hour. Also the best match. Unfortunately it did not hit the admittedly high standard set by their two matches in 2012. You can see the lucha influence in both wrestlers especially in all the wacky looking submissions they employ. I love Okada’s above it all attitude. I love Naito’s viciousness. The spot in the corner with the repeated headbutts was so out of nowhere and so amazing. This also has the most DDT variations I have ever seen in one match. Naito really needed to win some matches with the Pluma Blanca coming into this match because that hold was not over at all despite Okada’s best efforts to sell it. Then again it’d be nice if Okada won with the Red Ink once in a while too.
The last third of the match is really awesome. Just great back and forth with really believable near falls that have you thinking Naito has won the title. Okada shows off great strength catching and dead lifting Naito into a Tombstone Piledriver. Really the whole finishing sequence was immense. Like I said, best match on the show
Cewsh: First of all, remember when I told you that someone on this show is actually used as the pole for pole dancing? Yeah, meet SWAGsuke Nakamura.
The nearest comparison I can draw in order to illustrate what makes this match special would be The Rock and Stone Cold. These two are the kings of their generation, and haven’t actually wrestled too many times, so whenever they interact, it’s absolutely electric and the buzz in the audience is noticeable. In fact this is one of those matches that essentially sells itself. All they had to do in order to start it was have Tanahashi come out after a Nakamura title defense and say “It’s been a long time.” Boom, done, sold. There are precious few match ups in wrestling like this, where fans go nuts for the slightest hint that it MIGHT happen, and this is one of those special cases. So even though it is technically for New Japan’s secondary title, this is every bit the marquee match up of New Japan.
Now, it must be said that this is not the epic, world beating match that many of us might have hoped for. Defrost goes more into this, but it seems pretty clear that Nakamura and Tanahashi set out to have a great match without trying to upstage Naito and Okada. Which makes sense, since that’s the really important match from this show, but this match does feel short. When you have an epic confrontation between two of the biggest stars in wrestling, you kind of go with with sky high expectations. With that said, though, this is good fucking match. These two going at 80% is still thrilling and so fun to watch, and the crowd was so into everything that both of them did.
It feels weird to have less to say about the main event than I do the match before it, but that’s how this show is structured due to the fan voting. This match almost feels like the special bonus match you get after Raw goes off the air. It’s fun and fan pleasing, but it isn’t the best that either of these guys has to offer. To stick to the analogy, this is more Austin/Rock at WM 19 than 17 or 14. It’s great and beloved and totally worthwhile, but you can’t help but compare it to the other times they fought.
Honestly, I feel like I’m painting you a picture of this match as being kind of shitty when that is far from the case. And when Tanahashi hit that last High Fly Flow to win the match, I jumped out of my seat and fist pumped, much to my own embarrassment.
What more can you say? After 5 hours of wrestling, my favorite wrestler in the world stood next to the guitarist for Megadeth and played air guitar with his new fancy belt. All is right in the world.
86 out of 100
Cewsh’s Seal of Approval
Defrost: Now to the main event that was worked like a semi main event. Well, the entrances were main event. And another great pre match video. Plus Tanahashi has new gear. I always mark for new gear on the big show.
Long show. Over 5 hours when the main event actually starts. Imagine whoever the WWE IC Champ main eventing Wrestlemania. Well now that Mania is worth less than 10 dollars that’s not such a reach thinking about it. This is really the match that needed the 30 minutes. Like I said, this was more the semi main in substance than the previous match. The match really feels like it is building well and the finishing sequence comes very abruptly.
You sorta went into this one hoping for something special. This being their third Dome main event and delivering two solid matches, but now being at points in their careers where they’ve reached the potential seen in them back then the hope was for this to be their classic match at the biggest show, but it seemed they were happy to let Okada and Naito steal the show. In hindsight that whole fan vote thing was probably a mistake. When a match feels too short at the end of a 5 and a half hour long show that’s saying something. The Texas Cloverleaf Styles Clash was something though.
Cewsh: Wrestle Kingdom man. Even when it doesn’t get the highest scores or produce a slew of unforgettable matches, there’s still something so goddamn special about it. As a production, it’s nowhere remotely near the grandeur of Wrestlemania, but incredibly strong booking and character development made this a show that held intrigue from start to finish, and they capped it off with a number of delightful entrances that were perfect for the people they represented and added that special extra touch to put the show over the top.
Look, you all know that I’m a fan of New Japan, and I’m biased as hell. But if you’ve never watched a Japanese wrestling show, or more specifically a New Japan one from this era, then watch this show. Give it this one chance. Because I think that there’s something here for every single person out there who smiles at suplexes. If you do watch it, and you don’t like it, then by all means tell me I’m wrong. But watch it for yourself at least this one time. What do you have to lose?
Defrost: Long show that did not come near the work rate levels of the previous year which might be the best show ever held in the Tokyo Dome, which, going through the shows held in that building, is a hell of a feat. However, what it lacked up until the last four matches really carried that load, it more than made up for that in spectacle. This was perhaps the best produced wrestling event I have ever seen. From the entrances, to the videos, to the general presentation this show was incredible.
Well that’ll do it for us this time, boys and girls. We hope you enjoyed the majesty and spectacle of Japan’s biggest event of the year. Now it’s time to roll the red carpet back up, return our fancy tuxes, and get things back to normal. Actually that sounds pretty damn boring. Let’s watch a strong contender for the worst wrestling show of all time instead! Oh yes, we’ll be returning to the fertile garden of World Championship Wrestling next week as we review WCW Uncensored 1996. And god have mercy on our souls. But that’s not until net week. Until then, remember to keep reading and be good to one another!