Tuesday, October 11, 2016

NJPW King of Pro Wrestling Review

NJPW King of Pro Wrestling
October 10th, 2016 | Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Hall in Tokyo, Japan | Attendance: 9,671

If NJPW has a “big four”, I’d say King of Pro Wrestling is one of those shows. Over the past few years, it has featured some big matches including Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Minoru Suzuki (*****), Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada (*****) and AJ Styles vs. Okada (****). There was a dark match on this show, based on a recent anime that began airing in Japan. Tiger Mask W defeated Red Death Mask. It aired on NJPW World but I’m pressed for time and couldn’t check it out. I do know that Tiger Mask W was played by Kota Ibushi. So he’s doing this (even if it’s a one-off or part time), instead of signing committed deals.

CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, Will Ospreay and YOSHI-HASHI) def. Bullet Club (ROH World Champion Adam Cole, Bad Luck Fale and Yujiro Takahashi) in 8:40
Fale didn’t go after the ring announcer tonight. It’s a Bullet Club match, so of course it began with them attacking Chaos before the bell and a brawl. You’d think their opponents would be expecting it by this point. This went exactly as expected. Cole got some shine early to continue to try and get his character over with the Japanese audience. YOSHI played the face in peril for a while and Ospreay got a hot tag that led to work with Cole which was fine, but like their match in Destruction, not great. Ishii got the last big tag for his team and even on a night where it wasn’t his stage, he’s still damn good. They did a series of everyone getting something in, ending with Ospreay diving out onto Cole and Fale. That left Yujiro to fall victim to a brainbuster. Fine opener that did everything I thought it would. **¾

ROH Television Champion Bobby Fish, Great Bash Heel and Ryusuke Taguchi def. CHAOS (GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champion Jado, Roppongi Vice and GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champion Toru Yano) in 8:11
Toru Yano and his tag team partner Naomichi Marufuji beat Kazuchika Okada and YOSHI-HASHI in the main event of the most recent NOAH show. On that night, Jado and Gedo beat the best junior tag team going, Atsushi Kotoge and Daisuke Harada for some stupid reason. This wasn’t quite as good as the opener, but again did what it needed to. They seemed to be building towards GBH being the next challengers in NOAH for Yano and Marufuji, which sounds much better than anything going on in the IWGP Tag Title scene. While some of the guys tried, it was a forgettable NJPW multi-man tag. Honma pinned Romero with Kokeshi. It was yet another loss for Romero and they teased more tension with RPG Vice. While I’d like a shakeup in the junior ranks, I don’t know how much either guy would add to the singles division. Makabe went after Yano post-match. **¼

Go Shiozaki, Katsuhiko Nakajima, Masa Kitamiya and Maybach Taniguchi def. Manabu Nakanishi, TenKoji and Yuji Nagata in 11:49
Pro Wrestling NOAH vs. New Japan Dads. They did a similar match at the G1 Climax finals (though that one included Shibata) and it was awesome. Both teams attacked each other before the match officially began. Even without Shibata, this ruled. Everyone just went to war like eight guys who had serious beef. The New Japan Dads are always fun and it showed here. Nakajima and Shiozaki have played the dick heels very well in their NJPW appearances so far. The crowd ate all of this up. Kojima got fired up and started hitting cutters on everything moving. He made the hot tag to Nagata, who was his usual great self. Watching Shiozaki and Nakanishi chop the shit out of each other was a blast. Go eventually put him down with a lariat to win a really fun match. Give me more NOAH tags on these shows please. They’ve been a highlight so far with hot crowds, smart work and intense battles. Everyone, outside of Nakanishi who was helped to the back, brawled after the bell. Nagata and Nakajima slapped the taste of each other’s mouths and it was grand. ***¾

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: The Young Bucks (c) def. David Finlay and Ricochet in 12:47
Finlay and Ricochet wore matching gear despite it being their first time as a team. Well, mostly matching. They do hold two-thirds of the NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship, while the Bucks are also the ROH World Tag Team Champions. The Bucks ran down Finlay, telling him that his dad sucked and that he was just a young boy. Finlay and Ricochet worked smoothly together, to the point where you’d think they have been a team for a long time. They played off of everyone knowing each other well, leading to a frantic series of close calls from both teams. Ricochet got the hot tag and came in like a flying madman. I like Ricochet using the cutter since it works as homage to Kojima. Ricochet cut off the Meltzer Driver and they did the Finlay roll/SSP combo, but Matt got his knees up on the SSP. Ricochet cut off their finisher again, leading to a well done flash fin fake out by Finlay. They finally took out Ricochet and beat Finlay with More Bang for Your Buck. One of, if not the most enjoyable Bucks match in 2016. It was fast paced, I didn’t find myself annoyed and the stuff done made sense. The false finishes and early counters were great too. Give me Ricochet and Finlay over Ricochet and Sydal any day of the week. ***½

IWGP Tag Team Championship: The Guerillas of Destiny def. The Briscoes (c) in 13:58
Surprisingly, no face paint for Tama Tonga and Mark Briscoe cut his hair. I prefer this look for him. I gave this match **½ at Dominion and I was being way too generous. It’s just so uninteresting. I honestly can’t even write too much about this because it was hard to pay attention to. Jay hit a suicide dive and Mark nailed a block buster off the apron but the crowd mostly sat on their hands. Haku’s mediocre kids broke up a doomsday device and eventually regained the titles with their DDT combo. So goddamn boring. I shit on the NJPW booking of the junior divisions a lot, but their heavyweight tag team division might be the worst of all. The Briscoes are almost always interesting, but they were saddled with shit Bullet Club tags throughout this reign. **

The Young Bucks showed up and the four Bullet Club members put the boots to the Briscoes. Tomohiro Ishii ran out to make the save but got taken out too. So this was all seemingly done so the Tag Champions could be in the World Tag League (since the Briscoes have to be in ROH for that). Hirooki Goto and Ishii are going to most likely win that so this was a way to set up the eventual match. However, where was the CHAOS guys to help Ishii? They pulled a John Cena on him.

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Jay Lethal, KUSHIDA and Michael Elgin def. Los Ingobernables de Japon (IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion BUSHI, EVIL, SANADA and IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito) in 11:42
In a totally unsurprising moment, Tetsuya Naito and LIDJ were the most over act on the show. As always, Steve Corino fist bumped Naito during his entrance. Like a Bullet Club match, this started because of Naito attacking before the bell. It is so weird to see Lethal team with the babyfaces, especially Elgin, considering his alliance with LIDJ earlier this year. Tanahashi was surprisingly the guy to take the heat in this one. EVIL hit him with a BIG BOY SENTON and I marked. KUSHIDA got some revenge on BUSHI and then fast ball punched Naito. I’d still kill for a KUSHIDA/Naito match. They did some fine work together here. Elgin dragged KUSHIDA to give him the hot tag and he started kicking Naito’s ass. Elgin is a great hot tag powerhouse. They went into the barrage of big moves before Naito ate the Lethal Injection and Elgin’s powerbomb combos to end it. A lot of fun because LIDJ is the BEST THING IN NJPW. They set up future stuff as both Elgin and Lethal (who beat Naito in ROH) are in line for IC Title shots. ***½

Post-match, Elgin grabbed the title and held it up while standing on Naito. All hell broke loose as EVIL did his chair spot to KUSHIDA while Lethal and Elgin just basically watched. KUSHIDA also took the MX from BUSHI with the chair. KUSHIDA did a stretcher job.

I’m not sure where it happened, but Elgin suffered a fractured face during the match. Ouch.

NEVER Openweight Championship: Katsuyori Shibata (c) def. Kyle O’Reilly w/ Bobby Fish in 18:06
Far and away the most interesting and exciting match on the card. At last month’s “Destruction in Tokyo”, Shibata beat Fish so now his partner gets a shot. Also, back in August, O’Reilly beat Shibata in a non-title match in ROH. We got some grappling early and this had a gritty feel throughout it. They transitioned to strikes but both guys missed their big attempts. Kyle was first to actually lay in the strikes. He tried an armbar but Shibata blocked it and everything felt like a struggle in a good way. He was in control after a vicious series of strikes. Shibata sat up after a kick to the chest and brushed off the next one. He caught one and just walloped Kyle with a right hand. They started trading stuff and the match really got going. O’Reilly hit the brainbuster for two and went into a triangle choke. Shibata fought out of it and ended up in an armbar but reached the ropes. This led to an exchange of suplexes and kicks, before a forearm battle that ended with them hitting simultaneous big boots. Shibata ended up using the sleeper to set up the PK but went right back to the sleeper. O’Reilly passed out and Shibata retained. Exactly what I wanted. A war between two of my favorites and the big match performance that O’Reilly needed to solidify his heavyweight change. Awesome stuff. Extra love for Fish as the corner man shouting “BITE THE HAND” anytime Shibata got the sleeper in. ****¼

After the match, Go Shiozaki showed up looking for a shot at the NEVER Openweight Title. He left the ring and EVIL showed up to nail Shibata with the STO. It looks like Shibata’s next two title defenses are set. Maybe EVIL at Power Struggle and Go in the Dome? Or maybe EVIL at a “Road to” show, Go at Power Struggle and hopefully Nakajima in the Dome.

Wrestle Kingdom 11 Title Shot: Kenny Omega w/ The Young Bucks def. Hirooki Goto in 21:52
This is a rematch of the G1 Finals. I’ve yet to watch that match and don’t plan on it since it doesn’t interest me in the least. Omega obviously won it and Goto gets another shot for some reason here, though he’s a perennial loser. Goto turned the tables on Omega by attacking before the bell and leveling him with the title shot briefcase before also taking out the Young Bucks. Omega weathered that storm and things got evened out. I actually watched the last two matches with English commentary (I stopped watching for the Nationals/Dodgers game and clicked English by accident and didn’t bother to change it) and they hammered home Goto coming up short throughout his career. Red Shoes ejected the Young Bucks and YOSHI-HASHI. Omega took a backwards bump through a table outside and hit his head on the guardrail. Goto could have won with a countout, but like a complete buffoon, brought Omega back into the ring. THIS IS WHY YOU’RE A CAREER LOSER! Goto picked up some near falls but no part of me ever believed he would win. Omega hit a stiff knee and nearly won with Goto’s own Shouten Kai. Once that failed, One Winged Angel ended it. This was good, but far from great. Part of it was that the outcome was never in doubt. Goto will forever be Gedo’s personal whipping boy. They constantly talk about him coming up short, but it never leads anywhere. Omega is now guaranteed to get his Heavyweight Title shot in the Tokyo Dome, no matter how bad of an idea I think that is. ***½

IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada (c) w/ Gedo def. GHC Tag Team Champion Naomichi Marufuji w/ NOAH dudes in 28:00
Ace vs. Ace. Their match on the first night of the G1 saw Marufuji kick Okada’s ass. It was grand. Okada used his size advantage early, which Marufuji combated with his quickness. They did the fighting outside thing, where Marufuji hit a nice bulldog type move onto the guardrail. From there, Marufuji kicked Okada’s ass and lit him up with chops. Even when Okada could get in control, Marufuji was ready with kicks that Okada couldn’t find an answer for. It fit the buildup where Marufuji constantly was one step ahead of him. Marufuji hit a goddamn apron piledriver, which Okada should not be taking. The champion just barely beat the count back into the ring and Marufuji instantly dropkicked him. He hit Shiranui and for a second, I believed he won but Okada kicked out. Still, Okada looked dead until he countered a second Shiranui into a modified Rainmaker. Marufuji countered a second one into a small package for a really close two count. Okada then hit a piledriver, stole Marufuji’s Emerald Flowsion and won with another Rainmaker. The streak of Okada having his only great matches against guys that are better than him continues (see Tanahashi, Nakamura, Styles, Naito, Ishii, etc.) and this worked great for me because it wasn’t just typical Okada formula. They actually told a really great story and Okada had to overcome and find a way to finally overcome this guy that has had his number. ****¼

Gedo called out Kenny Omega for the Wrestle Kingdom 11 stare down. Omega did most of the talking and was highlighted by claiming that he was gonna treat Okada like a bitch, just like they did in America.

Overall: 8/10. A better show than I expected considering the card. The Young Bucks match was actually a lot of fun, the main event over delivered since they didn’t do the typical Okada formula, Goto/Omega was good and Shibata and O’Reilly stole the show. The NOAH tag was damn good and I like how they set up a lot of upcoming stuff. The Los Ingobernables tag was also fun and the only bad thing on the show was the Guerillas of Destiny tag (as always). Enjoyable stuff.