5-Star Match Reviews: Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 11, by Alex Podgorski

Oh boy, here we go. This is THE most-talked about wrestling match of the past decade. When it happened, everyone was talking about it like it was the new standard bearer for all future wrestling matches. It was an anomaly, a spectacle, a legendary performance. It was so good that it officially ‘broke the scale’ and was awarded six stars out of five by Dave Meltzer in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Only one televised match had gotten that rating beforehand, and that was back in 1994.

This is the match that got the whole world talking and brought considerable international exposure to New Japan Pro-Wrestling. It’s the first in a series of four legendary matches: Omega vs. Okada I.

This match took place on January 4, 2017, at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan.

As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.

The story here is simple. Omega won the 2016 G1 Climax tournament, becoming the first foreigner to do so. His main event push began earlier when he ousted AJ Styles from the Bullet Club in early 2016 and gradually rose to the top thereafter. Meanwhile, Okada was on a roll in his fourth run as IWGP Heavyweight Champion and was taking on all-comers.

They do ring entrances and Omega’s opens with a shot-for-shot remake of the first Terminator film, with him playing the role of Arnold. As his video ends, it shows the line “New Legend is About to Begin”. Truer words have never been spoken. Omega appears with a half-face terminator-style mask and fake shotgun, looking totally badass. Meanwhile, Okada comes down and it is literally raining Okada dollars. He pauses before entering the ring because he knows how big this match is going to be. Omega shows some subtle storytelling by crunching a piece of Okada money and tossing it at Okada.

The match

The match starts with a long stare-down and some fake out attempts at a Greco-Roman knuckle lock. They begin chain grappling and Omega stars wrenching Okada’s arm. Okada with a leg takedown but Omega reverses into a cross armbreaker attempt. Some quick transitions occur and Okada cinches in a grounded side headlock. Omega tries to pin but Okada gets up before the ref can even count one. Omega pulls Okada’s hair to escape the headlock and continues attacking the arm and the neck. They trade strikes for a bit before Omega locks in a headlock of his own and refuses to let go, even as Okada back suplexes him. Okada tries the headlocked suplex again but Omega escapes.

An Irish whip reversal occurs and Okada tries to send Omega into the turnbuckle but Omega kicks him away and does a springboard sunset flip attempt, but Okada blocks it and does a jackknife pin for two, but Omega powers out to everyone’s amazement and does a backslide for a two-count of his own. I love the way Omega drags his feet and ‘runs in place’ to put extra force into his pin. They get up and Okada hits two hip tosses followed by an armlock, but it gets broken in the ropes at the five-minute-mark.

Okada taps on Omega mockingly and taunts him. Okada answers an Irish whip with a huge shoulder block. Omega ducks a big boot and whips Omega into the corner again. He looks like he’s going to do the top-rope dropkick but Omega kicks Okada away. Omega teases the One-Winged Angel (OWA), but Okada escapes and tries the Rainmaker lariat, which Omega breaks from and spits on Okada and mocks him by doing his own rainmaker taunt. Omega does out of the ring to recover as the Young Bucks cheer him on. Omega stalls ringside until Okada comes after him, and after ducking some moves Omega runs into a huge big boot from Okada. Snapmare by Okada followed by a huge and very loud dropkick to Omega’s head.

They both go out of the ring and Okada whips Omega hard into the steel ring barricade. Okada tries a running kick but Omega catches him and teases a vertical suplex onto the barricade, but Okada reverses that into a huge Randy Orton-style draping DDT from the barricade onto the ringside mats. As Omega recovers, Okada brings out a table. After a brief struggle, Omega tries to throw Okada over the barricade but Okada reverses that sending Omega over the barricade instead. Then Okada hits a huge running crossbody over the barricade onto Okada at the ten-minute mark.

Okada’s in control back in the ring and slams Omega then hits a senton atomico for a one-count. Okada locks in a chinlock with his knee deep in Omega’s back. Omega struggles to escape, so Omega hits a swinging neckbreaker for a two-count. Omega fights back with forearms then gets a second wind and hits a dropkick to Okada’s knee followed by a jumping legdrop bulldog for two. Omega stomps away on Okada and then hits a brutal chop to Okada’s chest once he’s standing followed by a forearm to the back. Omega slams Okada and tries a great Muta-style flashing elbow but Okada dodges and tries a senton but Omega dodges that, so Omega throws him into the ropes and hits another forearm to the back for a two-count. Omega tries to hit the forearm again but Okada blocks it and charges but eats a knee to the gut from Omega instead. Omega attempts Aoi Shoudou (cross-legged fisherman buster) but Okada kicks his way out of it, only to walk into a snap hurricanrana at the fifteen-minute mark.

Okada rolls out of the ring as Omega rises like the terminator. Omega runs and hits an enormous suicide dive that makes the Undertaker’s look weak by comparison. Omega’s in control as he scoop slams Okada onto the ring apron and he lands right on the spot Omega hit with his earlier forearm strikes. He rolls Okada into the ring and then Omega hits a huge diving dropkick to the back of Okada’s head. Wow, that looked vicious. It almost looked like Okada got whiplash, that’s how his head snapped from the impact. Omega goes for a pin but Okada grabs the bottom rope, much to Omega’s frustration. Omega goes for another pin but Okada kicks out. Omega drags Okada to the middle of the ring and applies a modified chinlock that Omega keeps locked in until the ref makes him break the hold at the ropes.

Omega teases a powerbomb but Okada won’t go up do Omega strikes his head some more. Omega tries to knee Okada in the head but Okada grabs his leg, hoists him onto his shoulders and hits a Heavy Rain neckbreaker slam that closely resembles an Attitude Adjustment. They both get up after a while and Okada begins his comeback with running forearm strikes, followed by a DDT and a Shawn Michaels-style kip-up. A basement forearm smash gets another two-count for Okada.

Omega begins a comeback of his own at the twenty-minute mark but walks into a flapjack from Okada. Okada locks in the Red Rink submission hold and Omega looks like he’s fading until he gets a sudden burst of strength that slows him to reach the rope and break the hold. Omega charges Okada but walks into a tombstone attempt, but Omega struggles so Okada reverses that into the Reverse Neckbreaker to the knee. The fans – who have been pretty vocal for a Japanese crowd so far – are starting to come unglued.

Okada ascends the top rope and tries the diving elbow drop but Omega gets his knees up at the last second. Omega hits a single-knee pumphandle backbreaker and Okada rolls out of the ring, so Omega hits a running baseball slide dropkick to the back of Okada’s head, which sends Okada over the barricade towards the announcer’s table. In the ring, Omega has a devilish grin on his face as he signals to the crowd that something’s coming. As soon as Okada’s back on his feet, Omega springboards onto the top rope and hits an Asai moonsault over the barricade onto Okada. Holy shit, what a move.

Omega recovers in the ring as the ref begins the ring count. Okada struggles to make it back, so Omega puts the table on a supine Okada and hits a diving foot stomp from the apron onto the table (and Okada). Wow, that was nuts. Omega tosses Okada back into the ring and hits a kneeling powerbomb for another two-count. Still in control, Omega deadlifts Okada and hits the Dr. Wily Bomb for a 2.8-count. Meanwhile, the Young Bucks, who are still ringside, setup the table from earlier. Omega teases using the table but he struggles to get Okada into position for it, so Omega stomps and knee strikes Okada instead. He whips Okada into a corner and charges but Okada boots him in the face and tries to gain some momentum, but Omega reverses this into the ‘you can’t escape’ fireman’s carry slam/moonsault combo for another 2.8-count. Omega smiles devilishly as he tries the dragon suplex, but Okada keeps escaping it. Okada dodges a corner charge and puts Omega onto the top turnbuckle and dropkicks him out of the ring.

Okada’s in control now as he lifts Omega onto his shoulders and teases throwing him into the table, but Omega reverses that and tries the OWA into the table, but again Okada powers out. Omega tries a springboard move but Okada catches him on his shoulders Cena-style, but Omega reverses and keeps fighting, until he tries a running charge but Okada back body drops him over the rope, out of the ring and through the table. Good God, what a move. Omega landed so hard he cut a massive hole into that table. The Young Bucks are with Omega warning him about the referee’s count. Then Okada comes out (presumably because he wants the satisfaction of actually pinning Omega) and drags Omega back into the ring. Then Okada perches himself on the top rope and hits an enormous diving shotgun dropckick to Omega’s chest. Wow, Omega was hit so hard he flipped backwards. Okada pins but gets a two-count as the crowd awakens again.

Okada hits the diving elbow drop followed by his rainmaker pose. Okada sets up the Rainmaker lariat but Omega reaches the ropes. You can hear the Young Bucks will Omega on. Okada tries the Rainmaker again but Omega ducks and pushes him into the corner. Omega tries to lift Okada onto the top turnbuckle but Okada’s holding on for dear life. Omega looks to be spent as we reach the thirty-five-minute mark.

Omega slaps the hell out of Okada and places him on the top turnbuckle and teases some move but Okada powers out. A frustrated Omega continues to hammer away at Okada’s lower back. Then, with all the strength he has left, Omega joins Okada on the top rope and hits a dragon suplex from the top rope. Sweet Jesus, Okada landed right on his neck. And yet somehow, Okada STILL kicks out at 2.8.

Omega continues attacking Okada’s neck with the Aoi Shoudou and charges for a V-Trigger, but Okada dodges and hits a German suplex and tries the Rainmaker again, but Omega dodges and hits a V-Trigger knee against the ropes and goes for another, but somehow Okada musters enough strength to his hit perfect standing dropkick. Now both men are down. Okada tries the Rainmaker for the fourth time but Omega kicks his arm away but Okada blocks one V-Trigger, but can’t block a second one, and then Omega hits a Poisoned Frankensteiner, dropping Okada on his head again. Omega does the bullet club taunt and hits the V-Trigger knee again. Omega hoists Okada onto his shoulders, hooks the head and lands the One-Winged Ang—no, Okada jumps out of it. Okada attempts a V-Trigger again but Okada catches him and drops Omega with a Tombstone! Rainmaker pose! Okada hooks the wrist! Rainmaker! That’s it! Match over!  Cue the ‘they killed Kenny’ jokes.

The referee counts one…two…thr—NO! Omega kicks out! Omega kicks out! Incredible! How did he do that?! The crowd has exploded and I agree with them. Okada stares into space with a look of concern as we reach the forty-minute mark.

Omega is still down, selling the rainmaker as if it had just crushed his windpipe. Okada takes a long time to grab omega by the hair to pick him up, but Omega starts fighting back. Okada has had enough of this and dropkicks Omega so hard he goes flying across the ring into the opposite corner. The fans in the arena are on their feet. Okada picks up Omega slowly for the Tombstone, but Omega powers out and reverses it into a double cradle piledriver of his own but that gets a 2.9-count. Both of them are on their knees and start brawling with each other. They keep brawling until they’re both standing. Neither man wants to show anymore weakness. Fighting spirit! Then out of nowhere, Omega ducks a forearm and hits a snap dragon suplex followed by a V-Trigger shortly thereafter, but that also only gets 2.9. Omega hits another V-Trigger to Okada and lifts him for the OWA yet again, but Okada holds on while on Omega’s shoulders, refusing to let Omega wrap his arm around his neck. Okada struggles until he falls off and lands on his feet and lands a huge Rainmaker lariat.

Both men are down as Okada crawls slowly towards Omega. He grabs the wrist again and prepares for another Rainmaker but omega kicks his lariat arm away. Okada maintains wrist control as Omega kicks away at Okada’s head and brutalizes Okada with three V-Trigger-like knees to the side of the head. But Okada still has plenty of fighting spirit left and hits a third Rainmaker lariat onto Omega. Okada then goes for his fourth Rainmaker but Omega ducks it, then Omega tries his own Rainmaker but Okada ducks that. Okada goes for a Tombstone but Omega escapes, so Okada charges and runs into a standing dropkick from Omega, who then does the Rainmaker pose to Okada. Then Omega grabs the wrist and hits a Rain-Trigger knee. Wow, that was brutal. Omega tries the OWA YET AGAIN, but Okada reverses it into a spinning Tombstone piledriver, and then delivers a fourth and massive Rainmaker lariat. The referee counts one…two…three! That’s it! The match is over!

The camera pans to the crowd and there are fans with tears in their eyes! The fans give both wrestlers a standing ovation.

Winner and still IWGP Heavyweight Champion after 48:25: Kazuchika Okada

Review

HOLY SHIT! THAT WAS SPECTACULAR! That did indeed live up to the hype. They more than delivered. Okada and Omega put on an instant classic that set a new standard for main event, world title matches. The story in this match was beautiful. It was a well-crafted tale of teases, reversals, kick-out sequences, and above all, insane toughness. This is a classic made of the same structure as the All Japan Pro-Wrestling classics of the 1990s. Everything in the opening minutes was done to establish dominance, followed by a lengthy weakening segment, and finally a long and insanely dramatic closing sequence that left the fans on the edge of their seats.

There was also an underlying story that demonstrates perfectly how to craft an intricate wrestling story through showing without telling. Omega was the underdog in this match challenging the champion and company ace. Omega took absolutely everything from Okada; it took Okada hitting every single one of his biggest moves – including four of his killer rainmaker lariats – to keep Omega down for the count. But Omega never hit his ultimate finisher, the One-Winged Angel. Omega teased it several times but Okada fought out of it on every occasion. At the time of this match – and at the time of this writing – no one in NJPW has ever kicked out of the OWA. If Omega hit that move in this match, it would’ve led to a different ending. But we didn’t see that move hit, which leaves the door open for a rematch down the road.

The final ten minutes were of the best moments ever seen in a wrestling ring. Everything after the top rope dragon suplex was insane. So much unpredictability, so many reversals and counter-reversals, you never knew when or how the match would end. And unlike in WWE, in which a roll-up would be seen as a weak finisher, in this match Omega and Okada had demolished each other so badly that a simple roll-up or cradle could be believable as a finisher.

I only have on real gripe with this match, and that’s Omega’s selling of exhaustion. Omega was on offense more than Okada in this match, yet he took his fair share of insane moves. Yet whenever Okada went for his running strikes – especially his V-trigger – he’d move around with the same energy and speed as he had earlier in the match when he had taken less damage. It made him look like he was barely in pain, despite taking an inhuman amount of punishment. Had he moved more slowly later on in the match, Okada’s offense would’ve looked more brutal and would’ve made Omega’s exhaustion feel more real.

But that minor gripe doesn’t take away from what is arguably the best match in Wrestle Kingdom history.

Final Rating: *****

I don’t think it’s proper to rate anything on a 5-star scale beyond five stars. This was a perfect wrestling match and deserves all the praise that was heaped on it and on the wrestlers involved. This was simply outstanding, especially in the final ten minutes. These two had awesome chemistry and it showed in how well they knew each other’s big moves and how to try and steal them as well. If you want to watch a clinic on how to craft an unpredictable wrestling contest filled to the brim with believable near-falls, watch this contest. It serves as a template on how to do that and more. Highest recommendation possible.

Thanks for reading. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.

The post 5-Star Match Reviews: Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 11, by Alex Podgorski appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

NJPW Star Jay White Booked For ROH Supercard Of Honor

There has been speculation regarding the partnership with ROH and NJPW, however it appears as if the two companies will continue to work with each other. ROH announced that Bullet Club leader Jay White will be appearing at its Supercard of Honor event on April 4. “#BULLETCLUB MEMBER & NJPW STAR JAY WHITE SIGNED FOR ROH SUPERCARD OF HONOR APRIL 4… Read More NJPW Star Jay White Booked For ROH Supercard Of Honor

Tetsuya Naito Will Defend IWGP Double Gold Against KENTA At NJPW The New Beginning In Osaka

It has been confirmed that Tetsuya Naito will be defending both of his IWGP Titles at NJPW’s The New Beginning event against KENTA.

KENTA attacked Naito immediately following his victory over Kazuchika Okada in the Wrestle Kingdom 14 night two main event to close the show. KENTA then laid out Naito for a second time the night after at New Year Dash!! 2020.

Because of that, Naito will now defend both the IWGP Intercontinental and IWGP Heavyweight Championships in Osaka against him.

You can read New Japan’s official statement regarding the match below:

At a post Wrestle Kingdom press conference today in Tokyo the main event of February 9’s New Beginning in Osaka Jo Hall was revealed. The first ever Double IWGP Intercontinental and Heavyweight Champion Tetsuya Naito will put both titles on the line against challenger KENTA.

After a grueling combined 69 minutes 31 seconds in the ring against first Jay White and then Kazuchika Okada during the two nights of Wrestle Kingdom 14, Tetsuya Naito finally attained his lifelong goal of victory in a Tokyo Dome main event, and etched his name in history as the very first dual IWGP Champion. Yet before Naito could celebrate with the ultimate role call, he was blindsided by KENTA, who stole his moment to a chorus of boos in the Tokyo Dome.

The next night at New Year Dash!!, KENTA continued a relentless assault on Naito during a tag team main event, and after SANADA scored a flash pin victory on Jay White against the run of the match, the BULLET CLUB members responded with a sickening assault armed with steel chairs.

While KENTA was not victorious over Hirooki Goto during his NEVER Openweight Championship bout at Wrestle Kingdom, KENTA’s vile actions have seen him push his way to the front of the title contendership line, as Tetsuya Naito will be eager to get swift and brutal revenge.

With what little fan support KENTA had now completely wiped out by open hostility and vitriol, it appears that KENTA has no more bridges left to burn. Will it all be worth it, and can they light the way to a shock victory? Or will Naito shut KENTA’s mouth for good in Osaka? Find out February 9 LIVE on NJPW World!

The post Tetsuya Naito Will Defend IWGP Double Gold Against KENTA At NJPW The New Beginning In Osaka appeared first on ProWrestling.com.

NJPW New Year Dash Results 2020

Jushin Liger’s Retirement Ceremony to kick off the show featuring a number of NJPW stars including Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ryu Lee, Tiger Mask IV, Taguchi, Nagata, Juice Robinson, and Kota Ibushi. Tanahashi gives flowers (meaning for new beginnings/new endings) to Liger and the group posed with Liger for photos. The wrestlers bow and shake hands with… Read More NJPW New Year Dash Results 2020

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 Results

Night 1 (Pre-Show) Yuya Uemura, Yota Tsuji, Tomoaki Honma, and Togi Makabe vs. Alex Coughlin, Clark Connors, Karl Fredericks, and Toa Henare – Winners: Alex Coughlin, Clark Connors, Karl Fredericks and Toa Henare   (Pre-Show) Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Manabu Nakanishi and Yuji Nagata – Winners: Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan   Jushin… Read More NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 Results

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 Night Two Review by Alex Podgorski

The second night of New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom show is already the best wrestling event of the year. NJPW wasn’t happy having one show with MOTYC-level contests, so they pulled out all the stops on this night. This led to one of the best wrestling shows in many years, complete with a litany of great wrestling matches. Not only did this show surpass the first night’s overall quality by a huge margin, but this show very well might end up being the best wrestling show of 2020 once the calendar year ends.

Why was it so good? Read on…

As a reminder, you can read my predictions for the show here, and my review for the first night here.

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Evil, Shingo Takagi, and Bushi)  defeated The Most Violent Players (Togi Makabe and Toru Yano) and Ryusuke Taguchi, CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, Yoshi-Hashi, and Robbie Eagles) vs. Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, and Yujiro Takahashi) and Suzuki-gun (Taichi, El Desperado, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) to become the new NEVER Openweight 6-man Championships

This was a much better match than I thought it would be. The crowd was into the near-falls and every wrestler got the chance to showcase what they can do. The momentum shifts and confrontations were well-structured, which made sequences feel natural and not rushed.

Of all the wrestlers involved, Shingo Takagi got the most time to shine. He had some great near-falls and got to do more than anyone else. He’s one of the men to watch in 2020, so be sure to check him out when you can.

7/10

 

Ryu Lee and Hiromu Takahashi defeated Jushin Thunder Liger and Naoki Sano

This was Liger’s final match, and it was way better than it had any right to be. Liger did some good mat wrestling to start, and actually held his own against his two younger opponents quite well for a 55-year-old man. As for Sano, I was worried he would worsen this match, but he didn’t. He knew his limitations and did what he was best at, which is a handful of big spots while leaving the bulk of the work to Liger. I also loved the symbolism used throughout the match, especially when Hiromu applied a Fujiwara armbar as Liger’s mentor Yoshiaki Fujiwara watched from ringside.

The fans were very into this match, and made plenty of noise throughout its entirety. There’s this old cliché in American wrestling where fans chant ‘you still got it’ to an old timer. Well, Liger always had it. He never faltered in this match and hardly showed his age. He even no-sold a German suplex from Hiromu at one point and survived several double-teams. Hiromu had to bust everything out to pin the legendary Liger, so Liger can rest assured that he went out with a bang instead of with a whimper.

7/10

 

Roppongi 3K (Sho and Yoh) defeated Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo) to become the new IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions

Here we had another cruiserweight match, and boy was it fun. These were four of the most agile wrestlers in New Japan going a mile a minute with innovative, lightning-quick maneuvers. That said, Ishimori and ELP did use some comedy wrestling that didn’t fit right in the match.

At one point, El Phantasmo tried to punch Sho in the groin but hurt his hand as Sho revealed he was wearing a protective cup. This felt out of place and weakened the otherwise serious tone of the match. Ishimori and ELP are above this as performers, so while it might get some chuckles, it wasn’t really necessary in this contest.

7.5/10

 

Zack Sabre Jr. defeated SANADA to retain the British Heavyweight Championship

This is what Daniel Bryan could do if he had no restrictions on him. ZSJ is basically a British Daniel Bryan who specialized in being able to hit quick pinfalls and brutal submission holds out of nowhere. That philosophy was on full display in this match.

Even though it went only twelve-and-a-half minutes, it felt like almost double given how much they did. There were so many incredible reversals, clever escapes, and lightning-quick transitions that made this one of the most unpredictable midcard matches I have ever seen. They even managed to add some psychology with SANADA attacking ZSJ’s leg, which made it harder for ZSJ to capitalize on his kick-based strikes in later parts of the match. If this match went another five minutes it would’ve stolen the show. Unpredictability is one of the most important parts of a wrestling match because it’s always better when viewers can’t tell when or how a match would end.

ZSJ and SANADA exemplified that perfectly here. And I wish they got more time to showcase their technical skills.

8.75/10

 

Jon Moxley defeated Juice Robinson to retain the IWGP United States Championship

This was not on the same level as the Moxley/Archer match from the night before. While Robinson did try his best to make this into something special, it didn’t click. Now, this wasn’t a bad match; it was just average and lower quality compared to everything else on the card.

They did try some hardcore wrestling, like Robinson throwing a chair into Moxley’s face and then punched the same chair when Moxley tried to swing it at Robinson. But this was basically a standard match without anything exciting.

But all of that changed in the post-match segment.

As Moxley was celebrating, out came Minoru freaking Suzuki, who attacked Moxley and laid him out. He then announced that he was the King of pro-wrestling and wanted to become king of the United States.

A feud between Jon Moxley and Minoru Suzuki? And a possibility that MiSu could return to the United States? HELL YES!

6.5/10 (match) 10/10 (post-match segment)

 

Hirooki Goto defeated Kenta to become the new NEVER Openweight Champion

This was a great match with lots of back-and-forth action, great drama, and believable near-fall sequences. The final two minutes were especially great, as Goto and KENTA had great chemistry with each other. It felt like a classic ROH match with lots of brutal strikes, unpredictable near-falls, and signature moves built on top of one another in a logical way.

I have no idea why the crowd didn’t make more noise in this match. Maybe they were tired from singing Suzuki’s entrance music. Whatever the reason, their silence didn’t do this match justice as it was very good.

Although I initially thought that Goto winning would feel hollow, I (and everyone else watching) knew exactly why this happened later on.

8/10

 

Jay White defeated Kota Ibushi

This was a rematch from the 2019 G1 Climax final, and it too was a great match. It was the most ‘Americanized’ wrestling match on the card.  There was a ref bump (which isn’t common in Japan) and White’s manager Gedo got involved several times, attacking Ibushi when the ref was down, and even dragging the referee out of the ring when Ibushi had the match won.

If this match took place in the United States or otherwise in front of an English-speaking crowd, they would’ve booed louder and cheered wildly when Ibushi got his revenge on Gedo. But these Japanese fans barely responded, likely because they don’t like dirty/underhanded wrestling in the first place.

But if you ask me, that ‘dirty’ wrestling helped the wrestlers. Jay White got ridiculous heat from the fans because they booed him much more than they would have if he had wrestled this match alone. And Ibushi now has an out because he lost in controversial circumstances and not cleanly.

I also think that Ibushi did a great job of showcasing his dynamism in this match. He has this great ability to move like a cruiserweight and strike like he’s genuinely trying to murder his opponent. That ‘fugue state’ gimmick was used to perfection here as he looked like a remorseless killing machine at one point. This was a great performance from both wrestlers, and hopefully will lead to a rematch down the road.

9.25/10

 

Chris Jericho defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi

Once again, Jericho proved why he’s arguably the best active wrestler in the world today. While he didn’t wrestle at the same pace as the cruiserweights or with the same fluidity as ZSJ and SANADA, he made every move he did feel important. He acted as the perfect heel, flipping off the crowd, mocking Tanahashi by calling him in an idiot (in Japanese, baka = idiot, so ‘Baka-hashi’ makes sense here), and showed his underhandedness by brutalizing Tanahashi’s knees. He worked the crowd better than anyone else on the show, getting the people to love Tanahashi that much more.

he ending was especially great, as Jericho made Tanahashi submit with the Liontamer, after initially locking the move in Boston Crab-style. As I mentioned on the first night’s review, the Boston Crab is a rookie’s move, so Tanahashi tapping to a variation of this move is especially poignant. Tanahashi rarely taps, and here he tapped to what is basically a rookie’s move.

How this will impact Tanahashi’s career going forward remains to be seen, but this will definitely be a huge feather in Jericho’s cap for 2020.

9/10

 

IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito defeated IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada to win the Double Gold Dash

This is why I love Japanese pro-wrestling: they tell incredibly long stories, and when those stories conclude, you have an overwhelming sense of satisfaction you rarely get anywhere else.

In this case, Naito’s dream finally came true. After a crazy, back-and-forth contest with Okada, Naito finally won the big one. He finally won in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom and made history by becoming the first-ever dual champion in NJPW. He had to overcome not just a mountain of an obstacle in Okada, but had to survive his own limitations. Okada, like Jay White the night before, targeted Naito’s knee like it had a bull’s eye drawn on it. but despite that vulnerability, Naito persisted and kept going.

That’s why the crowd was so behind him. Not only were they hoping Naito would finally get his big win, but they booed Okada loudly when Okada had the gall to attack Naito’s knee. That effectively turned him into a true heel, and he was getting booed as loudly as Jay White, Gedo, and Jericho.

They even went a step further with the callbacks in a way that reminds me of King’s Road matches from AJPW and NOAH. Two years ago, when Naito faced Okada in the main event of WK12, Naito went for the Stardust Press, a diving move off the top rope. In that match, the move failed Naito and cost him the match. So when he went for it in this match, everyone was going nuts, because they knew if he did it again he’d be wasting time (allowing Okada to recover) and it could cost him the match again.

But this time, Naito landed the move perfectly, which sent the crowd (and commentators) into a frenzy. And when Okada kicked out of the Stardust Press, they were even more frenzied. That sort of storytelling is why NJPW is so good right now. They make the small stuff mean so much so that older matches have historical meaning and future rematches become more symbolic and unpredictable.

10/10

Unfortunately, Naito’s moment of glory, that which he had been seeking for at least six long years, was cut short by KENTA, who appeared and attacked Naito during his celebration. The fans and the commentators were furious, and KENTA became the most hated man in the company and in the Tokyo Dome. He even sat Shibata-style on Naito’s chest with both belts in hand. The fans sounded so angry there could’ve been a riot in the Tokyo Dome.

 

Overall show rating: 10/10

This show was fantastic, top to bottom. There wasn’t a single bad match on the card, and the worst match was average, not necessarily bad. The gauntlet match was solid because everyone involved got enough time to showcase what they can do. Liger’s final match was a lot better than I was anticipating, and had a great combination of great in-ring action and an emotional post-match segment. The junior heavyweight tag match was your typical ‘spot-fest’ match that made for great wrestling for those that like high-flying craziness (though seeing Canadian Destroyers thrown around like candy is an annoying trend, to be sure). ZSJ and SANADA had the most technically-graceful match on the entire card and it would’ve stolen the show if they had gotten more time. The Moxley/Robinson match was OK, nothing special, but the post-match between Moxley and MiSu was a welcome surprise.

Goto and KENTA had a great match that got an unusually small reaction, despite being exciting and brutal. Kota Ibushi and Jay White had the kind of match that would main event any American show and the fans would love it here. Jericho and Tanahashi had an awesome match for two great grapplers past their primes. And the main event. My God, the main event. That was wrestling storytelling at its best with Naito and Okada. A long, complex, emotional story had finally concluded, only for a new one to start between Naito and KENTA. Who knows where things are going now.

I think that NJPW has set the bar incredibly high, and I doubt anyone will be able to reach them this year.

The post NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 Night Two Review by Alex Podgorski appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 Night One Review, by Alex Podgorski

Wrestle Kingdom 14 Night One is in the history books, and boy was it an interesting night. New Japan Pro-Wrestling set the bar high for wrestling for the 2020 calendar year. Overall, the show was booked very well with some great matches throughout the night.

This will be an abridged review, with me going over some key points in each match and giving a rating out of 10. If you want more detailed reviews of particular matches, check out my 5-star/Almost 5-star match review series. In those reviews, I go into extensive detail on in-ring action and storytelling.

You can also check out my predictions for WK14 Nights One and Two here.

I didn’t get the chance to see the Stardom match, but the official decision was that Mayu Iwatani and Arisa Hoshiki won. That made sense since they were champions going into the match, after all.

 

Toa Henare, Alex Coughlin, Clark Connors, and Karl Fredericks defeated Great Bash Heel (Tomoaki Honma and Togi Makabe), Yuya Uemura, and Yota Tsuji

The regular roster pre-show match showcased the NJPW roster of tomorrow (much how this show’s main eventer Kazuchika Okada opened the show at Wrestle Kingdom IV ten years ago). This was a basic match centered on the rivalry of the Tokyo dojo vs the LA dojo. You had basic moves from all the participants (except the two veterans, who did their signature moves to excite the crowd), which still told an interesting story.

NJPW Young Lions/rookies are only allowed to use a handful of moves: dropkicks, scoop slams and basic mat wrestling, and the only submission hold allowed is the Boston Crab. This is why Jericho rarely uses that move in Japan; his original Liontamer finisher was vertical and caused more pain but the ‘later’ version was basically a Boston Crab; so if a wrestler in NJPW busts out a Boston crab, it’s meant to be an embarrassment, like ‘haha, you suck so much you tapped to a rookie’s move’.

All the wrestlers got to shine here for a few moments, especially rookies Tsuji and Henare, who might have a feud between them going forward. Nothing special, but nothing offensive either.

5.5/10

 

Tencozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima) defeated Yuji Nagata and Manabu Nakanishi

This was a slow albeit unexciting match. Granted, all four of these men are in the twilights of their respective careers and have thus slowed down big time. Still, some of their offense looked barely passable. Kojima tried to make his strikes look as brutal as they used to be, but he’s no Kenta Kobashi and looked like he was going easy on both Nagata and Nakanishi.

Nevertheless, these four wrestlers had solid chemistry with each other and didn’t botch anything. So by that token, it’s infinitely better than DX vs. the Brothers of Destruction from Crown Jewel 2018.

4/10

 

Naoki Sano, Shinjiro Otani, Tatsuhito Takaiwa, and Ryusuke Taguchi (with Kuniaki Kobayashi) defeated Jushin Thunder Liger, Tatsumi Fujinami, The Great Sasuke, and Tiger Mask IV (with El Samurai)

This was an emotional nostalgia match meant as a tribute to Liger, who entered for his 3,550th wrestling match (which is astonishing). Because it was meant to be nostalgic, these guys got away with the fact that the action left a lot to be desired. True, we didn’t get to see Liger hitting his trademark Ligerbomb, the Fisherman Buster, or the Shooting Star Press as I had hoped in my prediction (that said, others certainly did hit those moves in later matches). At the same time, it was cool to see a 55-year-old Liger hitting a top-rope Frankensteiner perfectly and Sano hitting a suicide dive through the ropes like this was 1990.

My only real gripe with this match is that, of all the people to have pinned Liger in this match, they went with Taguchi. He has been more or less a comedy wrestler for several years now and wasn’t as significant to Liger’s history as any of his partners or opponents.

So unless he’s using this win to get serious momentum for the pre-show gauntlet match on the second show, this victory would’ve had deeper meaning if, for example, Sano – who is teaming with Liger in his final match – were to get the decision to add some intrigue to that final contest.

6/10

 

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr., and El Desperado) defeated Los Ingobernables de Japon (Evil, Sanada, Shingo Takagi, and Bushi)

The only real talking point of this match was ZSJ and SANADA having an awesome teaser sequence. They looked like they were ready to kill each other and setup the second night’s title defense perfectly. ZSJ got the win by putting SANADA’s partner BUSHI in one of his many brutal submission holds. It will be interesting to see how SANADA tries to defend himself from a wrestler so technically-gifted he can turn virtually any position into submission and tap his opponent out.

7/10

 

CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, and Yoshi-Hashi) defeated Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, KENTA, and Yujiro Takahashi)

Like the match before it, this was done to set up the singles title on the following night. But unlike the match before it, the challenger got the victory in this match instead of the champion. This was another one of those typical multi-man tag matches filled with shenanigans and chaos (pun intended).

The only exciting parts were seeing Ishii vertical suplex 350-pound Bad Luck Fale despite having a bum knee and Goto laying waste to everyone in Bullet Club other than KENTA to send the NEVER Openweight Champion a message. But other than that, this was an otherwise forgettable contest.

5/10

 

FinJuice (Juice Robinson and David Finlay) defeated Guerrillas of Destiny (Tanga Loa and Tama Tonga) to become the new IWGP Tag Team Champions

The Guerillas of Destiny were no match for Juice Robinson on this night. Although it was a team effort from both himself and David Finlay, Juice was clearly the star. He had all the big moments, overcame the odds more than his partner, and got the crowd behind him way more than Finlay could.

This was exciting, but nothing ground-breaking. The crowd was rather dead for GoD’s offence and only made noise when Juice made his comeback. I don’t know why, but it feels like the heavyweight tag title scene is in short supply of exciting match-ups.

If there’s one thing that NJPW bookers have to fix in 2020, it’s this division. GoD needs something to do now that they’ve lost, and the new champions need to prove themselves against their next set of challengers. The questions is, who is credible enough right now to challenge them?

7/10

 

Jon Moxley defeated Lance Archer to become the new IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship

In what has become an unofficial tradition for Wrestle Kingdom shows, the last four matches were all on a completely different level compared to the earlier matches. Archer and Moxley demolished each other with brutal weapons shots and creative offense. And, as I had predicted, there was indeed blood in this match (though judging by how it happened, it was likely drawn the hard way).

Archer showed just how much he has improved as a singles wrestler by hanging with Moxley throughout the match and getting very close to winning. He did things you’d never see in a WWE ring these days: he threw a chair straight into Moxley’s face, he chokeslammed a Young Lion onto Moxley as if he were a weapon, and he even tried to choke Moxley out with a plastic bag.

Crazy? Yes, but also perfectly appropriate for a Texas Deathmatch (in Tokyo). But Moxley couldn’t be denied, and overcame Archer’s offense with brutality of his own, including a Paradigm Shift into a table. All in all, the most exciting match on the card up to that point.

8/10

 

Hiromu Takahashi defeated Will Ospreay to become the new IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship

Just as I predicted, Hiromu and Ospreay stole the show. They put on an absolute clinic in junior heavyweight wrestling for 24 minutes and set the bar so incredibly high. Not only were their wrestling sequences exciting and breath-taking, but they also told a great story as well. Ospreay attacked Hiromu’s neck with surgical precision throughout the match, making each fall believable given Hiromu’s brutal neck injury last summer.

But Hiromu wouldn’t give up, and kept coming for more, no matter what Ospreay dished out. These wrestlers knew each other so well they had everything scouted ahead of time. There were so many reversals, transitions, switches, and big moves out of nowhere that you had no idea when and how it would end.

Lastly, while the match did go to Hiromu and he fulfilled his story of overcoming his injury, special consideration goes to Ospreay for being the best wrestler on the show. He’s some kind of wrestling prodigy. He can move with such perfection and grace that he doesn’t look capable of botching anything. I have no idea how he was able to attempt a Sasuke Special, get it blocked, get overhead belly-to-belly-suplexed into the ring by Hiromu, fly through the ropes and complete the Sasuke Special onto Hiromu all in one swift motion. Ospreay is definitely the man to watch in 2020.

10/10

 

Tetsuya Naito defeated Jay White the new IWGP Intercontinental Championship

This was a classic big New Japan match. That means it had a lot of early limb targeting, excellent reversals, and an unpredictable closing sequence. But where this differed from the typical NJPW playbook is that this contest featured a pure heel in Jay White. White had Gedo in his corner, and Gedo kept interfering in the match to screw Naito out of his advantages.

So in a nod to classic wrestling stories, Naito fought from beneath (doubly so, as he was also dealing with White brutalizing his previously-repaired knees) and had to overcome the odds. Of course, that wasn’t that hard for Naito because the crowd adored him and HATED White and Gedo. While it’s not the quickest of matches, the story is well-told nonetheless.

9/10

 

Kazuchika Okada defeated Kota Ibushi to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Championship

Ok, so believe it or not, this was actually a triple threat match: Kazuchika Okada vs. Kota Ibushi vs. Kota Ibushi’s neck.

As I said in my preview, Kota Ibushi is batshit insane. He likes to take crazy bumps unnecessarily, often just for the sake of being crazy. Well, he did this again in the main event. Ibushi went for what looked like an AJ-Styles-like Pélé Kick, but somehow ended up landing right on his head. In other words, Ibushi gave himself a piledriver, and this was less than halfway into the match.

I understand that mistakes happen, but this one was just too glaring on Ibushi’s part. He basically spiked himself, weakening his own body and allowing Okada to have an easier time weakening Ibushi for the Rainmaker, as Okada targeted the neck nonstop thereafter because he knows what wrestling is. It made Ibushi look more like a reckless idiot than a wrestler on Okada’s level.

I will also give credit to Ibushi for trying to tell a new story during the match’s second half. At one point, he turned completely stone-faced; he had a dead expression on his face and started wrestling like a heel. He even started hitting some very real-looking (and sounding) closed-fist punches to Okada, which could’ve gotten him disqualified (they also got him booed by the fans). While the announcers tried to sell this like it was Ibushi’s dark side coming out, it didn’t help that he kept doing babyface things after like the Phoenix Splash and posing for the fans after having supposedly turned evil.

As for Okada, this was an OK match by his standards. If any other wrestler had this match they’d be praising it as the magnum opus of their careers. Okada has had better matches at the Tokyo Dome, and will likely have a better one against Naito on the second night. After all, NJPW specialized in nuanced, long-term stories and Okada and Naito have an extensive history together (almost as much as Okada’s rivalry with Tanahashi). So this felt like a relatively straightforward Okada match, with the real spectacle set to take place on the second night.

9/10

 

Out of my earlier predictions, I went 9 for 11, only getting two matches wrong: the Liger match and the CHAOS/Bullet Club match. Mind you, most of my picks were based on common sense and understanding NJPW’s sense of long-term storytelling. Even if they’re obvious decisions, sometimes doing the obvious thing when it’s logical is better than swerving the fans with a nonsensical decision at the last minute just to ‘subvert expectations’.

 

Overall show rating: 7.5/10

WK14 Night One felt more like a setup show – a precursor to the second show – than an event that could stand on its own. The Hiromu/Ospreay match was the only contest that wasn’t affected by the second show’s shadow that was looming overhead all night long. Every single other match felt like only half of a story being told, which made them feel less significant.

Night Two is likely to be the bigger of the two shows, with six singles matches (five of which are for titles), two two-man tag team matches and only one gauntlet match on the pre-show. This structure is where Night Two succeeds and Night One disappointed. Night One featured six matches that went under ten minutes (three of which were on the pre-show). With so many people shoehorned into matches with so little time, you’re not going to witness much deep storytelling or compelling action. Luckily, the second night will likely have more time allotted to each match, which should translate into a more exciting and unpredictable show.

The post NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 Night One Review, by Alex Podgorski appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

Chris Jericho Reveals He Would Like To Face Will Ospreay & Kota Ibushi

AEW World Champion, Chris Jericho recently spoke with Sports Illustrated ahead of his return to New Japan tonight, discussing if he plans on doing more.

Jericho will be competing at tonight’s WrestleKingdom 14 against Hiroshi Tanahashi, in what is a highly anticipated bout. The wrestling veteran admitted that he actually wanted to work with Tanahashi before, and discussed how excited he is for the match.

“I wanted to work with Tanahashi last year,” Jericho told Sports Illustrated. “When I attacked Naito in Korakuen Hall, I wanted to attack Tanahashi, but Gedo wanted it to be Naito, which turned out to be great. This is a main-event, money match, and there is a lot of buzz about it. I just watched the match Tanahashi had with Kenny from last year in the Tokyo Dome, and it was amazing.”

While Jericho has made several appearances for New Japan in recent years, it is unknown if he will be sticking around long-term after this match. However, Jericho revealed a few names that he would love to possibly work with down the line.
“I came to work with Omega, Naito, Okada, and Tanahashi,” said Jericho. “Will I come back after the Tana match? I don’t know. I’d love to work with Ospreay and Ibushi. It might be mission accomplished after this, it might not, but it’s really cool to go back as a main event heavyweight after being a junior heavyweight.”

The post Chris Jericho Reveals He Would Like To Face Will Ospreay & Kota Ibushi appeared first on ProWrestling.com.