January 4, 2017
Watch: NJPW World
Tokyo Dome – Tokyo, Japan
Michael Elgin wins NJPW RumblenWo Japan, Cheeseburger, hosses and more
Tiger Mask W def. Tiger The Darkit's them, but not really them
The fact that Kota Ibushi vs. ACH in the Tokyo Dome was a thing that happened, already makes 2017 extra awesome. Even though they didn’t go all out, they intertwined playing up the crowd in anime fashion with exciting offense. The match was paced to the point where they wouldn’t piss anybody off for stealing the show, but they still got a fair amount of offense in. Unless if you’re somehow oblivious to the fact it’s them, W (Ibushi) and Dark (ACH) just used their own movesets for the match sans the taunts. We got the Fosberry Flop and the Golden Triangle Moonsault. After that came a beautiful piledriver near fall in which W fought back from. The face had to go over as Tiger Mask W hit a “Tiger Driver Last Ride” for the victory. Perfectly fine opener that exceeded expectations because of the way they managed to navigate the small time given to their match.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: The Young Bucks (c) vs. Roppongi Vicethe important Jr. Tag edition
NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship Gauntlet Match: Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL & SANADA) def. Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi, Bad Luck Fale & Hangman Page); CHAOS (YOSHI-HASHI, Jado & Will Ospreay); Satoshi Kojima, David Finlay Jr. & Ricochet (c)eye-roll, but good booking
Cody def. Juice Robinsondamn, Juice really IS improved
Both guys’ entrances were the best on the show sans LIJ up to this point. Super neat presentation on both sides, with smoke pyro for Cody. Speaking of Cody, I had high expectations in a weird sort of way. More on the character trait side of things. I expected him to be more like the man in the grand vignette and less like Cody touring the world; so there would be a distinct promotion in how foreign fans see him; how he works with New Japan talent; how the Bullet Club relates to him. But nope. He was…mostly just Cody. With that came good and bad. He was acceptable, sometimes good, also doing the worst whiff of the disaster kick ever to be seen. The main takeaway from this match though, would be how improved Juice Robinson really is. Even if you take a time-span of December 2016 to January 2017, the results are nearly frightening. The crowd is behind him. He can sell like a MF’er. He can emote. He can gosh darn wrestle extremely well. That played a part in Cody being made to look extra good. But my gripe with this is that it shouldn’t have been that competitive. If Cody had a hard time facing a young-ish lion, then what the hell is he going to do when he faces Shibata on NJPW turf? However it was awesome to see Juice reach the ropes instead of tap to the American Nightmare hold right away. Cody would go on to hit Cross Rhodes for the win in what was an okay debut, and GREAT breakout performance from Mr. Juice on the loose.
ROH World Championship: Adam Cole def. Kyle O'Reilly (c)I'll take it I guess
I said in both prediction forms that the loser of this match would be headed to WWE. I’m seemingly on the money with that, as Adam Cole is now the first ever THREE-TIME ROH World Champion. That’s weird to say. The match itself wasn’t anything too special. At this point it was the best match on the undercard. They didn’t really have an overarching story to the match except “Cole is better than Kyle, and he’s going to say Bay Bay and prove it”, while Kyle excellently sold limbs that weren’t worked on enough. The point being that it never built to anything except a shock finish. It was an effective title match sprint but Kyle was kicked to the ditch in every way. He didn’t get much shine. He worked technical at times but that was never the direction they were going to head in. The best part of the match came before the finish where Kyle kicked out after a Last Shot from Cole. Multiple superkicks later and another Last Shot came the end for O’Reilly. He’s not advertised for any future ROH events headed into 2017. Adam Cole having the title again is something. I really don’t care about ROH at this point, and this is another time where I just shrug my shoulders, focusing more on other promotions and things that are actually good a lot of the time. Thanks Sinclair.
IWGP Tag Team Championship: Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii def. Great Bash Heel (Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe); Guerrilas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa) (c)okay well, it was pretty good
The mystifying saga of the IWGP Tag Team Championships continue as they have new holders. But first, an update on the Jenga blocks that were building regarding G.O.D. vs. GBH. The growth of their work together was slightly halted and not as good as the Tag League finals at all. This was one of the matches I was most wrong about. The team I said didn’t have a chance to really win, won. It didn’t over deliver. It was just there with some pretty awesome moments, and spectacular work down the stretch. The belts still have the “ugh” aura to them where you know it’s going to be a sketchy watch. Admittedly this was the match I was most “chill” during as I was preparing to be blown away by the top four matches that were just so much more intriguing than this. The match started with Yano, right away, doing his comedy, taking the turnbuckle pad down. Honma was whipped into it. Even though I said what I said before, G.O.D. and GBH still had super good trading of offense when they got their interactions in the match, proving there’s something always there. Honma was once again the underdog of the match, surviving, but barely. Tanga Roa legitimately screamed “what the fuck!” at one point. Other than those things there wasn’t much memorable about this at all except another “shock finish”. Ishii went for a double lariat, he couldn’t quite hit it, so who better than Yano to come in with a low-blow to enable a history altering moment. Your new champions have arrived…
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Hiromu Takahashi def. KUSHIDA (c)from rag to riches
NEVER Openweight Championship: Hirooki Goto def. Katsuyori Shibata (c)wait, he didn't choke?
This match went exactly the way I wanted it to. From the layout to the booking to Shibata’s character, everything made sense and made for the sleeper match of the show (come true). It started out like the WK11 lead-in interviews went. Shibata dismantled Goto, he bantered him through his physical ability. He stretched him, kicked him, mauled him. He let him know that this isn’t any type of evolution because there was no origin to evolve from. This went by so fast it’s hard to remember everything, but all the details combined with the big spots made it memorable enough to be considered a great match and the third best on the card. When it kicked into the final five or so minutes the match was out of this planet. The ref went down which led to Goto hitting a headbutt, yet when both dropped Shibata got up first in a great dosage of storytelling. An ushigoroshi and shouten kai were hit but Shibata kicked out. We got a crazy blitz of offense including delayed selling suplexes, something I’ve grown to love as a fan, because I perceive delayed selling as mostly a net positive to matches. Goto hit a copious amount of headbutts including a cracking-of-the-skull Shibata style one, along with a forward facing GTR knee lariat type of move, followed up by the actual GTR FOR THE VICTORY OVER SHIBATA. Hirooki Goto did not choke. He beat 1/2 of his former Meiyu Tag. He conquered a man that was considered unconquerable with the belt before and after EVIL. He did it in the fashion that could only be compared to anime. It was the super finisher. I’m stoked for Goto’s run with the belt as it has the potential to be great match after great match, something refreshing in the NEVER picture instead of it being passed between Shibata, Ishii and Makabe for LONG reigns. EVIL was a surprise for a new market/transitional. This was a big win with all things considered.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Tetsuya Naito (c) def. Hiroshi Tanahashimy match of the night
Tanahashi debuted his new theme as promised, and it’s alright on first listen. The highlight is narration being “GO ACE!” in a lousy weird tone. Almost like it’s heelish. This easily takes the cake for my match of the night, and is currently sitting atop my MOTY rankings. I thought this was near perfectly built. Navigating through the match I couldn’t point out any flaws I saw. The reason why this was so successful in my mind is because a) the best crowd reactions on both ends in the company, b) they both worked on each others’ legs and sold it like they REALLY MEANT it and c) the escalation and pacing is some of the best you’ll see Tanahashi ever participate in. There was no wasting time unlike the main event. Every movement, limb for limb holds, etc had meaning. Whether it was the grip of a leg every time out or Tanahashi doing the tranquilo taunt on the apron waiting for Naito to get back into the ring, or Naito smirking everytime he one-upped Tanahashi with HIS limbwork; there was so much to love about this contest. I said beautiful pro wrestling in more ways than one, many times in my notes. The match picked up into submission holds on the legs, with Tanahashi getting the better of it this time. He hit a dragon screw against the ropes and sling blades for a near fall. The opponent standing High Fly Flow was hit for a near fall, then a Destino was countered as the crowd lost their minds (this would happen more than once, but also making things like counters matter in comparison to say 10 at once in a chain, makes fans react even more). Not even to mention yet Naito taking a slingblade on the apron which was one of the craziest bumps of the night. I surely thought it was over when Tanahashi hit the High Fly Flow to the back of Naito, but Naito got the knees up just in time when he was flipped over to his front-side for the end-blow. Naito RIGHT after reversing gripped his knee like it got shot. He managed to pull out a top rope inverted Destino which was kicked out of, in what was the best kickout of the night to me. That seemed like a super finisher to me but apparently the new Tanahashi had more energy than ever. Go Ace no longer though, as another Destino was hit as Naito retains his Intercontinental Championship in a beautiful chess-match.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada (c) def. Kenny Omegajust that 15 minutes though
Precursor: if you somehow get the idea I don’t like this match out of the following review, or my prior Tweets, you are very dumb. I digress. Kenny Omega received a Terminator entrance, eliminating an Okada fan with his merch on in a video prior to coming out in a half-mask with a gun strapped. Okada had the typical Rainmaker entrance. No lights shut off this time. The first 10-15 minutes of this match were absolutely brutal. More so than usual. I generally put up with Kazuchika Okada leading someone through the opening process of the match, but this was just so much more painful than usual. For AT LEAST 12 minutes, we got needless offensive back and forth. Not focusing on a limb, just out the gate offense that could have been condensed to 5 minutes. Instead we got meandering that nearly had me eye-roll, to lead to the first big spot of the match, where things slowly started to kick in. A few things I liked from the period that ruined the finished product of the match were Omega spitting on Okada post-Rainmaker counter, oh wait, that’s it. There’s nothing else memorable until the DDT on the floor was hit which domino effected things. Kenny pulled out the Terminator dive with most in the Dome clapping along, which was an epic sight. He also smashed Okada in the face with a top rope dropkick. Even from this point on it was still grating to sit through. It all went way uphill from the double stomp onto the table latched onto Okada’s body. That’s where big match Omega, arguably having the best performance of his life/topping the G1 came into play. Okada got completely overshadowed, and while under-appreciated as a performer on a consistent basis, this was primarily the Kenny Omega show until we got to the Okada special, the finishing sequences. Kenny in mad-man Kenny fashion hit a springboard moonsault over the barricade from the apron. The drama centered around the table set-up was the best drama created to this point. There was an amazing callback to the end-of-2016 One Winged Angel spot through the table on the outside but Okada managed to reverse, sending Omega FLYING over the ropes, in back body drop fashion through the table. Just the rest of the match was something else. It was an ultra-hybrid increasingly fast chain counter sequence with the ultimate boss battles combining. Kenny missing the V Trigger only to duck the dropkick, only to hit huge knees, yet Okada slipped out of the One Winged Angel almost completely flipping, yet Omega out of the Rainmaker, yet Kenny hitting a tombstone on Okada, yet dragon suplexes and V Triggers and kickouts! Okada dropped Omega from the One Winged Angel position into the Rainmaker. Omega had the arm locked and hit BRUTAL knees yet took another Rainmaker. Omega was so incredible in his role that he was nearly crying, trying to hit baby punches on Okada’s stomach. Then came the “how is this possible, even more so?” stuff, like a Rainmaker V Trigger and the Spinning Tombstone being the final One Winged Angel counter. One. More. Rainmaker. 1-2-3. One of the worst first half’s and one of the best second half’s to a match in some time combined to form a match that I thought was excellent, and would be so much more than that if not for the super awkward 10-20 minutes that was the unfortunate prelude to the insanity/goodness.
NJPW WRESTLE KINGDOM 11
Excellent - 8.5/10
Wrestle Kingdom 11 provided an even better four set of matches than Wrestle Kingdom 10 did. The undercard is just as fun, if not a tiny bit better than some other years thanks to the variety of the show, plus the barn-burner Junior Tag Title match. Other highlights included Cody being Cody which is fun to watch, Juice Robinson showing how much he's improved on the biggest stage of his life, as well as the NJPW Rumble with Big Mike, Cheeseburger and nWo Japan. To top it all off? Will Ospreay doing flips, Kota Ibushi vs. ACH happening in the Tokyo Dome, and the entire presentation, and production values stemming from the second biggest wrestling event of the calendar year. The Junior Heavyweight Title match proved to be even more impressive than expected as it recovered into something magical. The NEVER Openweight Championship match went according to plan, and sometimes that's all you need to do. Execute at a high level. The Intercontinental Title match was MOTYC quality, with Big Match Tanahashi and Naito bringing the heat. Lastly, the main event, even though I'm slightly down on, delivered big time with its second half, hurt by a aimless first portion of the match that proved nothing but they're capable of big things evidenced by later on's logical storytelling. Watch this show. NJPW proves people wrong again. They will continue to do so headed deeper into this year. I'll be here all year long to help unfold it all.