Wednesday, January 20, 2016

NJPW: Wrestle Kingdom 10 Review

New Japan Pro Wrestling - Wrestle Kingdom 10

January 4th, 2016

1) ReDragon (Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish) (c) vs. The Young Bucks vs. RPG Vice (Rocky Romero & Beretta) vs. Ricochet & Matt Sydal - IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match
This was much better than last year's four way tag opener. I was bummed that we didn't just get ReDragon against Ricochet & Sydal because I feared this would just be a clusterfuck like at WK9 and ReDragon/Ricochet & Sydal is a dream match. That's not to say the WK9 match was bad, but it was just too much, too fast, too early in the show. This gave you everything you wanted however it also left you wanting more which is what a good opener should do. It was a ton of fun from beginning to end with every team getting their moment to shine and hit their signature moves. In the end, Cody Hall would be the deciding factor as he caused a distraction which allowed The Young Bucks' to steal the victory and win their 4th IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles.

Match rating - ***1/4

2) Bullet Club (Tama Tonga, Bad Luck Fale, & Yujiro Takashi) vs. The Briscoes & Toru Yano - NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Title Match

It was a random yet exciting announcment when we find out that NJPW was introducing a trios title. It was even more random when The Briscoes & Toru Yano were announced as one of the teams in the match to crown the first set of champions. None the less, it was cool to finally see The Briscoes in NJPW and they seemed to have a fun time here. It was a little anti-climatic to be a match crowning the first ever trios champions, but it did it's job. The Briscoes get the pin on Tonga after Yano hits him with a chair allowing them to nail the Doomsday Device.

Match rating - **1/2

3) Jay Lethal (c) vs. Michael Elgin - ROH World Title Match
I'll say this right off the bat, don't get into this expecting your typical ROH World Title Match. I did and it made me be disappointed when this thing was ultimately over. With it being such a big stage, you'd think ROH would want these two to go have a barnburner match like they did years ago back home in the states, but this was only the third match on the card so it'd be hard for them to do such a thing. With that in mind, this was a fun undercard match, it just didn't feel like a World Title contest especially when compared to most ROH Title matches. Elgin & Lethal both got all their stuff in, though. Lethal controlled for a few minutes, Elgin's power got him the advantage and he nailed the always awesome inside out falcon arrow before Lethal brought the fight back and ended it with the Lethal Injection to retain the ROH World Title.

Match rating - **3/4

4) Kenny Omega (c) vs. KUSHIDA - IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match
Admittedly, this was one of the matches on the card that I was least excited about. It's odd to say considering I love both guys, but I was hoping for a more fresh match since these two traded the title off and on in 2015, not to mention their prior meetings. However, this proved to be the best match on the card up to this point so I'm happy it took place. Omega had The Bucks at ringside with him and they superkicked Ryusuke Taguchi who was with KUSHIDA. Vintage shenanigans from The BC filled the first quarter of the match with trashcans coming into play and Omega moonsaulting off the railing onto KUSHIDA with one. The challenger soon began fighting back by viciously targeting the arm of Omega as a way of setting up for the hoverboard lock. From this point, the match reached that next level with the crowd getting hotter than they'd been all night. Several false finishes that weren't overdone, the arm work was awesome, Omega's strength was astoundingly showcased at points, a great exchange of strikes & kicks, Taguchi took out the Bucks when they tried to interfere, it was just great stuff during the entire final half. Omega goes for the one winged angel for a second time, but KUSHIDA rolls him up to pick up the win. The only thing I would've liked to see was the hoverboard lock being the finish just because of how well done the work was to the arm early in the match, but I enjoyed this so much that I can't really complain.

Match rating - ***1/2

5) Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows (w/ Amber O'Neal) (c) vs. Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe - IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match
The story going into this was whether or not Honma, along with partner Makabe, could continue his momentum from winning the World Tag League and finally win some gold in NJPW after fighting for it for so long. OR would the Bullet Club continue to dominate? From the start, it looked like the BC option would be the outcome as Karl & Doc absolutely destroyed Honma & Makabe right out of the gate. Honma was bleeding from the back of the head and Makabe got pummeled in the mouth. Guns n Gallows dominated early, but the babyface team of Makabe & Honma wouldn't stay down and once Honma got the hot tag, things started to turn around for them. The action in the final few minutes was heated and furious which was the perfect match for the brutal, calculated first half that the BC dominated. In the end, the moment everyone wanted finally came as Honma & Makabe were victorious. Another good match.

Match rating - ***1/4

6) Hirooki Goto vs. Tetsuya Naito (w/ EVIL & BUSHI)
This is the only match on the card that isn't for the title. It's purely a grudge as Goto tries to defend the honor of NJPW against Naito who has turned into a despisable character that shats upon everything good and holy about New Japan. The trend that has carried on throughout the night of people jumping their opponents before the bell continued here as EVIL & BUSHI got an early start on Goto before the match got underway. The ref got them off and things finally got started. It was a pretty basic affair although it did have some big moments like Goto hitting the code red off the second rope which was crazy. Everything here was solid, I just didn't get into it that much. There was some more interference from EVIL & BUSHI near the end however Goto fought them off and was able to pin Naito.

Match rating - **3/4

7) Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs. Katsuyori Shibata - NEVER Openweight Title Match
This a rematch of the match that got me so heavily into NJPW back in 2013. That was also the same match that got 5 stars from Dave Meltzer. SO, that tells you the hype that this one has. It feels like big time fight and just as the bell rings, the two competitors exhibit that by charging each other with slaps and strikes. What a fitting start that was because the intensity of this match never slowed. Both men beat the hell out of each other and landed every strike and throw that they could. It's hard to replicate a match as special as their first meeting was for me so this wasn't on the level of that, but it was still an awesome sequel and the best thing on this show thus far. Shibata picks up the win with a sick penalty kick. What a fight!

Match rating - ****

8) Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. AJ Styles - IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match
The dream match of the decade has arrived. It's the match I'm most excited for and I'll say right off the bat that it lived up to expectations. I find myself feeling like matches won't whenever I'm looking so forward to something, but soon enough I'm lost in the match and can't take my eyes off the screen which is exactly what took place here. Styles fooled everyone early on by acting like he had fully injured his back again only to be playing opossum in order to get the advantage and jump Nakamura from behind. AJ used the calf killer as his main calling card in this match as he began going for it as soon as possible and took every chance he could to work on the leg and try to lock it in. Nakamura stuck to his trusty Boma Ye and nailed it around what I'd call the half way point of the match right before these two started truly throwing bombs. A one armed Styles Clash couldn't put Nakamura away so Styles went to the top rope and it ended up costing him. Nakamura nailed a breathtaking michinoku driver from the top turnbuckle to the mat which got him a two count. This led to the blow that would break the camel's back, one of the most brutal Boma Ye's that I've ever seen to the back of Styles' head followed by one to the front of the head. Nakamura retains in one hell of a match.

Match rating - ****1/4

9) Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahasi - IWGP Heavyweight Championsip Match
This was quite possibly the most important match in the history of New Japan Pro Wrestling. It determines where the company goes from here and it also wraps a story that has been at the centerfold of things for several years. Can Okada fully become the Ace of the company and defeat Tanahashi? His dreams were crushed in front of the world last year and now here we are in 2016. This go round he has even more to lose considering he's the champion so if he loses, he not only takes a crushing blow to his pride yet again, he also loses the title that he loves more than anything. This makes for a big time feel. It created an atmosphere that was different than during any other match during the night. For the first time throughout the evening, I really felt the mood in the Dome change when this match began. After a few minutes of feeling out and stuff, Tana slapped Okada which sent the champion into a frenzy that allowed him to gain control after a running crossbody onto Tanahashi over the railing. Tanahashi fought back and targeted the legs of Okada throughout the contest. They did an awesome spot on the apron where Tana hit the slingblade on the edge of the ring. This made for a false finish as Okada sold trying to get back into the ring perfectly, limping in at 19. Soon enough, time came for the big guns to really come out and this led to some fantastic stuff. Okada countered high fly flow with a dropkick in mid air, both men hit each other with their own finishers, yes, Tana hit the rainmaker and Okada hit high fly flow, it was great. I also have to mention that as someone who really dislikes Kevin Kelly's commentary, it was a step above anything I've ever heard from him here and he actually added a lot to the match at points. So, kudos to him for doing an awesome job during this match. None the less, after a ton of drama and near falls, Okada hits THREE fucking rainmakers to end this thing, retain his title, and crown himself the ace of NJPW as we head into 2016. This was the outstanding contest that you'd expect. I personally enjoyed last year's better, probably because I watched it live and it brought me out of my seat on multiple occasions, but I'm definitely gonna give both a re-watch and that opinion could change because they are both classics. This entire series is something I'd recommend to all wrestling fans because of how important it is to NJPW and the landscape of the promotion.

Match rating - ****1/2

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