Wednesday, May 29, 2024
EditorialNJPW Wrestle Kingdom X Review - YeaaOh!!

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom X Review – YeaaOh!!



Konnichiwa wrestling fans! I’m back again for my annual review of NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom PPV event. Last year was my first time watching a NJPW event, and needless to say, it was one of the best shows I had ever seen in my life; miles ahead of anything the American promotions conjured up in 2015. So as you can imagine, the anticipation was high as I sat down to watch NJPW Wrestle Kingdom X with my father last night. Before I go any further, this review will contain spoilers, so if you have not seen the show yet, you really shouldn’t be reading this. Also, I will not be calling all the action, as the show was over 4 1/2 hours long (the entire show was 6 1/2 hours if you include the preshow!) and I could probably extend this review to over twenty pages if I did.

The biggest difference this year was having no Jim Ross on commentary (sad face), and instead having Kevin Kelly, Matt Striker and Yoshi Tatsu. I’ll let you know how they did later. I’ll be posting an “excitement” rating (1-5 stars, 5 stars being the best) for each match. The rating does not reflect how great the match was, although I generally rate a match by how entertaining it was; so your ratings may differ.

There was a Rumble on the pre-show, but I didn’t watch it because (almost) five hours of the main show was enough already. Participants included Jado, Captain New Japan, Cheeseburger, The Great Kabuki, Hiro Saito, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Jushin Thunder Liger, Kazushi Sakuraba, King Haku, Manabu Nakanishi, Máscara Dorada, Ryusuke Taguchi, Satoshi Kojima, Shiro Koshinaka, Tiger Mask, Yoshi-Hashi, Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Yuji Nagata. Jado won the match by last eliminating Ryusuke Taguchi.

Match #1reDRagon (Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly) (c) vs. Aerial Dogfight (Matt Sydal and Ricochet) vs. Roppongi Vice (Baretta and Rocky Romero) vs. The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) (with Cody Hall) – Just like the previous year, the opening match was a tag team contest between the American wrestlers working for ROH, and others working exclusively for NJPW. The match was for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship, the first of eight (!) title matches. Two former WWE guys in Matt Sydal (Evan Bourne) and Trent Baretta involved.

Cody Hall escorted The Young Bucks, and you guessed right, he’s Scott Hall’s son. With some experience he could easily be in WWE following in his dad’s footsteps. He interfered on The Young Buck’s behalf. I also noticed how certain entrance themes were changed, and a message would display saying the music was altered due to copyright issues. Might just be NJPW not being allowed to use ROH entrance themes. Anyways, the match was a spot-fest, so I’ll list the better spots below:

  • Nick Jackson doing a crotch chop and screaming “SUCK IT!” in a squeaky voice which echoed around the arena to no reaction.
  • Matt Jackson using Baretta’s arms to crotch chop himself in front of Rocky Romero.
  • Ricochet and Sydal’s simultaneous standing moonsault on Nick Jackson; first real spot.
  • Kyle grabbing Matt’s arm and clinging on to the rope upside down as Nick decides not to save his brother and suicide flip over them on to Fish and Aerial Dogfight. Then a super kick to Kyle’s head to save his brother.
  • Worst worked spot of the show. Rocky dived over the rope landing on Nick, which Nick TOTALLY no sold as he decided .. err no, the next spot is more important, so he stood up and grabbed those around him, as all four stared at Matt Sydal who was setting himself up on the turnbuckle. I hate it when they make the spot completely obvious. Matt Sydal did the moonsault, with all four men clearly trying to catch him. Someone needs to tell these guys to stop the “group hug” spot because it looks bad.
  • Ricochet tried to do a suicide dive of his own, but instead Cody Hall swiped his leg out. He picked Ricochet up for the Razor’s Edge and launched him to the outside on top of everyone except The Young Bucks. 1-0 to the Bad Guy.
  • Ricochet’s Northern Lights Suplex transitioned in to another Suplex. COMBO!
  • Springboard 450 by Ricochet after Sydal planted Nick. Matt pushed Sydal in to Ricochet to break the pin up.
  • The defending champions looked to be the aggressors as they combined to torture Sydal with move after move.
  • A rather interesting combo by Kyle, as he threw Nick down to the mat, keeping hold of him and coming back to his feet again two more times (hard to explain it), til Kyle and Fish did their double spike DDT in to a flying German suplex with extra momentum. Nice.
  • Biggest spot of the match! Octuplet Suplex! Yes, reDRagon and Roppongi Vice delivered a suplex to The Young Bucks and Aerial dogfight at the same time. Nick overselling the suplex like it was a tombstone off a skyscraper.
  • CLOTHESLINE CITY! Rocky Romero delivered ten clotheslines in a row.
  • Aerial Dogfight’s simultaneous Shooting Star Press’ on Roppongi Vice.
  • More Bang For Your Buck finished the match, giving The Young Bucks their fourth reign as Jr. Heavyweight Champions.

A great way to start the show. Despite it being full of action, the fans were pretty quiet for it. It’s hard to read a Japanese crowd sometimes, they could have been silent out of respect, or simply because they had no one to cheer for. This was something you usually see on the Independent scene in America, or in Ring Of Honor. I also enjoyed the use of Cody Hall, who seemed to fit in to the grand scheme of things without taking away from the excitement.

The downfall was the positioning for certain spots, and at times, no-selling from The Young Bucks. What’s the point in anyone doing a massive aerial move if you’re going to run around like nothing happened two minutes later? More selling required. I give the excitement rating because everyone played their part, but I honestly can’t give it anymore than that.

Excitement Level: ****

The Young Bucks celebrated their fourth title win as reDRagon looked on bewildered as they lost the belts without being pinned. A rematch is highly likely between the two teams. It seemed the other tag teams wanted anyone but The Young Bucks to win.

Match #2The Briscoes (Jay Briscoe and Mark Briscoe) and Toru Yano vs. Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga and Yujiro Takahashi) (with Shiori) – This was to crown the inaugural NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship. The commentators expressed their disgust for Takahashi, a Japanese wrestler allied with Bullet Club, a stable supposedly for American wrestlers. Takahashi came to the ring with Shiori, who was looking rather hot. The camera kept panning to her cleavage, so she’s the eye candy for the evening. They also mentioned Tama Tonga being the son of Haku (the other one, not Micah/Camacho who works for TNA). Bad Luck Fale is the silent heavy of the group.

For the second match in a row, Bullet Club jumped the gun and attacked their opponents before the bell. Most of the action coming from the Briscoes to begin with, til Yano got the tag. The Japanese fans sprang to life as Yano fought Fale. Yano’s kinda like The Miz (a “movie star”), except he’s charismatic and funny. Bullet Club worked Yano over for a while. Tonga surprised the Briscoes with a double dropkick. Bullet Club riled the Briscoes up while working Yano over. Matt Striker blatantly called his own commentary annoying at one point; thanks for the honesty Mr. Striker. Yano began the comic relief with his comeback, showing his ability to see opponents with “eyes in the back of his head”. Yano kept his intensity up by taking out the Bullet Club on his own; the crowd firmly behind his amusing expressions as well. Mark and Takahashi worked in the ring for a while, with Mark displaying his “redneck kungfu”. Takahashi flipped him over after an attempted Karate kick, Mark landed on his feet and countered a T-bone suplex.

After a long time on the apron, Jay finally made his way in as the legal man. Jay delivered a sweet Death Valley Driver on Tama. Jay lost the advantage a short time later after a Tama twist, followed by a “dangerous” Alabama slam. At this point I noticed how Yoshi Tatsu was leaving all the commentary to Kelly and Striker, only speaking up to ask a question, or to answer one of Striker’s questions, usually with “yeah”, or a sentence or two which can only be made clear if you listen really carefully. Tama sat on Jay’s shoulders for a long time as Jay tried for the electric chair drop, but was unable to as Tama grabbed the ropes. Yano appeared outta’ nowhere and threw a chair at Tama, who let go of the ropes. Mark climbed to the top and the Briscoes hit the classic Doomsday Device, picking up the win and becoming the first NEVER Openweight 6-man Tag Champions.

Excitement Level: ***

One of the weaker matches on the card, but still entertaining. Yano was the most appealing, Mark was the most energetic, and Tama Tonga was my favourite on the Bullet Club side.

Match #3 Jay Lethal (c) vs. Michael Elgin – Both made their entrances, and even though some generic entrance theme played during Lethal’s (due to copyright laws), it didn’t stop him from looking like a star. Matt Striker compared Elgin to Scott Norton. Jay Lethal showboated to start the match; as is tradition. Some nice back-and-forth in the early going, with Elgin getting the upper hand via powerslam. Elgin attempted his standing vertical suplex, Lethal, upside down, smashed Elgin in the face with his knee. Lethal looked as if he would be allowed to get out of it, but nope, Elgin lifted him back up again before he could. Again, Lethal kneed Elgin in the head, getting halfway down, but once again Elgin lifted him back in to the vertical position. As you can tell, I was loving this. Elgin held him up with one arm before deciding to finish the suplex.

Another nice spot, as Elgin lifted Lethal up for the press slam, and showed his strength by holding him up with one arm. Elgin tried for a power bomb to the outside, but again, interference reared its ugly head, this time in the form of Truth Martini, who held on to Elgin’s leg. Lethal escaped a second attempt, then Truth tried attacking Elgin with the Book Of Truth, missed, and Elgin kicked it out of his hands, giving Lethal time to springboard dropkick him off the ring apron. Lethal tried the suicide dive, but overcooked it considerably, almost landing on the commentators, but instead landing body first on the metal barrier. OUCH! Luckily he wasn’t injured. Lethal tried the spot one more time and did it right. Bravo. Lethal got the upper hand, and was able to pose for a nice photograph of himself flexing his muscles as he placed his foot on Elgin’s head; Truth Martini snapped it from all angles.

A short time later, Elgin countered Lethal in to a suplex, and followed it up with some running splashes, a body slam, and finally a big springboard splash. He signaled for the lariat, but Lethal countered. Soon enough, Elgin grabbed Lethal from behind (no homo), and Lethal begged to be let go, but inevitably Elgin gave him the German suplex in to a bridged pin; just a 2-count. Lethal countered another lariat attempt, and hit the “Black Machismo” elbow drop; vintage Lethal. He tried for the Lethal Injection, but Elgin spotted it and countered in to two rolling German suplex, Lethal countered the third with some elbows, Elgin pushed him to the turnbuckle, rolled back, and hit the Lariat!

Lethal was in trouble, so he rolled out of the ring to the apron. Elgin grabbed his head (while standing on the second rope of the turnbuckle) and suplexed Lethal, standing from the ring apron, up in to the air, and down again with a sit-down suplex variation. Lethal kicked out, and Elgin signaled the end. Powerbomb to the turnbuckle on Lethal! Truth jumped in, but Elgin noticed and punched him back to the outside. In the chaos, Truth passed Lethal the Book of Truth, so when the referee looked outside after Truth fell, Elgin attempted his powerbomb finish, giving Lethal the opportunity to nail him. Lethal soon threw it away before the referee turned, and followed it up with the Lethal Injection to retain his ROH World Championship.

Excitement Level: ****

Really couldn’t see Lethal losing here. And for the third match in a row there was blatant interference. I’ve seen better matches from both men against different opponents. Considering they had 12 minutes, I can understand why it wasn’t the quality we expect of them. Still, it’s better than seeing another Sheamus vs. Roman Reigns match. Sorry, cheap shot there, but these guys prove you can still have a really good match halfway down the card with twelve minutes. This was not a ROH show, so I can understand why the contest had more a mid-card feel.

Match #4 KUSHIDA (with Ryusuke Taguchi) vs. Kenny Omega (c) (with Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) – GIMMICK ENTRANCE TIME! Ok, I loved this, because I’m a mark for Back to the Future. KUSHIDA was one-half of the Time Splitters tag team, so it seemed fitting he would get an entrance emulating Back to the Future, with the titantron displaying Time Splitters in the familiar font. Taguichi appeared as “Doc” Emmett Brown, dressed up in white with the trademark white hair, holding a remote control which he frantically tried using for something. Commentary said he was trying to get back to his own time. KUSHIDA entered wearing a Marty McFly red jacket. It’s so 1980’s for no reason but who cares? Kenny Omega entered looking Terminator-esque; and pulled it off better than Triple H; not like that’s a huge feat or anything. He did look pretty bad-ass though.

Doc looked worried as the Bullet Club got in the ring. Once again, as usual, Bullet Club jumped the gun and triple super kicked Doc Brown to the outside and stomped on KUSHIDA McFly. Notice the ongoing trend? Yep, even the commentary were getting tired of it. Omega kept the upper hand, even going as far as using deodorant on KUSHIDA’s face while the Bucks distracted the ref. Omega followed it up with an interesting spot on the outside; a moonsault from the barrier while holding a trash can (which Matt handed to him just before) which barely managed to connect. Omega still had the upper hand, managing a beautiful suicide flip to the outside on KUSHIDA.

A short time later, KUSHIDA finally got some offense on Omega, a Pele Kick to the head. He came out Omega with a flurry of kicks, and an Irish Whip in to a springboard elbow. A hurricanrana takedown in to the Kimura lock by KUSHIDA; locking it in tight. KUSHIDA focused on Omega’s arm after he broke free. He continued to work on his arm, even locking in the Kimura on the turnbuckle. Omega really hurting afterwards. The “meat of the match” next, with both men going all out with kicks and strikes. KUSHIDA thumped his fist square in Omega’s face and knocked him the “F” out; for a short time. KUSHIDA held his wrist in pain after the punch. Nice selling from both men as the end sequence loomed. More kicks to Omega’s bad arm.

KUSHIDA tried for the springboard, but ended up on Omega’s shoulders in the Electric chair position. Instead of dumping him, Omega let him fall past his head (front), caught him nicely, and transitioned in to a German Suplex pin. Nicely done. KUSHIDA kicked out and immediately locked in the Kimura again. Nick Jackson grabbed Omega’s other arm and tried pulling him to the rope in desperation. The referee was pretty useless, as he just slapped Nick’s arm and didn’t try to kick him off. Matt held on to Nick’s legs for some extra support. Enter Doc Brown! Outta’ nowhere the Doc returned to the present day and took out The Young Bucks. with a trash can. The action continued in the ring, with Omega trying and failing to hit his finisher. Another flurry of kicks and punches saw Omega get the advantage

Literally, with one arm, Omega picked KUSHIDA up for a sit-down powerbomb! There’s a false finish. A knee to the face of KUSHIDA, followed up by another finisher attempt. KUSHIDA countered and rolled him up for the pin, and the victory, to once again become IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. A really good match again, and this time the interference made sense and added to the drama. Loved the entrances, loved the match, and loved the ending. Obviously it can’t be 5-star, so the rating is the minimum I would give it on the excitement meter.

Excitement Level: ****

Match #5 G.B.H. (Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma) vs. Bullet Club (Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson) (c) (with Amber Gallows) – Makabe was one of my favourites in Wrestle Kingdom IX when he fought Ishii, so it was cool to see him again. Makabe and Honma won the World Tag League so they entered with their trophies. Doc Gallows was wearing face-paint, and Anderson said something about him being like “the freakin’ Undertaker” at Wrestle Kingdom. They were escorted by Amber Gallows, the NWA Women’s Champion, and wife of Doc Gallows.

Not long in to the match, Gallows slyly got his chain and punched Makabe in the face with it behind the referee’s back. I also noticed Gallows and Anderson swearing at their opponents at times. Anderson took some liberties with the ref, knocking him down at one point and not getting disqualified. Honma finally got the tag and delivered his flurry, followed up with a well received headbutt. The champs were able to get the advantage back and keep it for a while. Honma again tried to fight back but Doc Gallows put an end to that. Anderson followed up with a running power bomb.Honma took Anderson out with a headbutt and fell down to the mat in exhaustion.

The match continued with Makabe and Doc, the two biggest guys. Honma recovered long enough to hit a Doomsday Device with Makabe on Anderson. A flying head butt from the top, followed up by a flying knee drop from the top by Makabe on Gallows, sealed the victory, giving the team of Makabe and Honma their first IWGP World Tag Team Championship. The Japanese fans loved it, so it’s likely this duo will continue to see much success. Honma and Makabe celebrated together with their trophies and their new championship belts. Not the best tag match ever, but the reaction from the crowd makes it worthy of the excitement rating.

Excitement Level: *** 1/2

Match #6 Hirooki Goto vs. Tetsuya Naito (with Bushi and Evil) – Evil made his entrance shining some green lasers around the place. At this moment I knew the entrance was going to be eerie. Bushi entered afterwards wielding a scythe. Naito entered last with a mask and a white suit. Striker tried to explain the story behind Naito, telling us the fans had grown to resent him when he was a “good guy”, so he recreated his image to be dark and unforgiving, and now the fans were starting to cheer him again. Sound familiar?

Anyways, this was the only match on the card NOT to have a championship on the line. At that point it felt like either the match would be a) brutal, or b) forgettable. So Goto got in the ring and Naito bailed, leaving his cronies to attack him from behind before the bell. Again, how many times do we need interference before the bell? What is this, the Attitude Era reincarnated in Japan? Well, on a different note, despite knowing nothing about the feud between Goto and Naito, Goto was intense from the beginning and kept it up throughout the match. Apparently there’s no such thing as DQs in Japan, as Naito’s cronies viciously attacked Goto on the outside. Naito dropped Goto on to a table, which was covered by a black sheet of some kind; it broke a little, but not in half.

Naito, looking rather expressionless, continued his offense on Goto. After several minutes of dominance, Naito let Goto recover just for a brief moment, giving Goto the chance to hit him with a surprise lariat. Goto got the upper hand with some stiff kicks to the body, and a bulldog out of the corner. A back drop for two. Naito countered Goto and nailed him the Mic Check (Mr. Anderson’s finisher in TNA). Soon enough, both men slugged it out on the turnbuckle, til Goto’s headbutt allowed him to do the rolling sunset powerbomb off the turnbuckle; the first decent spot of the match. Continued to drag on for a while with both men slugging it out back-and-forth. Naito reversed a kick by grabbing Goto’s leg and using it as a weapon on the referee, but that didn’t help as Goto still delivered a lariat.

Again, cue the interferance. Mis-timed green mist by Bushi hit Evil instead of Goto. After taking Bushi out, Goto turned his attention back to Naito, who low-blowed him (I believe the only time in the PPV we see one). The referee sprang back to life directly afterwards as Naito rolled Goto up for a two-count. Goto finished this one up with the Shouten Kai (Vertical suplex sitout side slam). Overall a good match, but not one to write home about. The PPV only got better from this point, so regard everything during and before this match as the mid-card, and the following three matches sell the card on their own merits.

Excitement Level: ***

Match #7 Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs. Katsuyori Shibata for the NEVER Openweight Championship – Oh boy. Last year watching Ishii and Makabe was one of the most intense experiences I’ve ever had as a wrestling fan, so I was hoping for something similar here. Even Matt Striker couldn’t contain his inner mark as he told us how happy he was to be calling it. He told us he couldn’t stop smiling, because he’s always loved destruction, and that’s clearly what this match was going to be. This NEVER Openweight Championship seems to bring a different style of match to the table, one that is stiff, intense, and lacking in actual wrestling (although it does still happen when it’s right). They strike each other so often, and so hard, you can’t help but wince, and you can’t help but think these guys are legitimate tough guys. You wouldn’t see this in American wrestling because it’s far too brutal, in fact I would go as far to say I’ve seen hardcore matches that were tamer.

Anyways, calling the highlights. Katsuyoi “The Wrestler” Shibata made his way to the ring wearing some simple black trunks and a face of intense evil. Despite not being a big guy, Shibata still came across as that dude you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark ally. Slapping from both guys in the beginning, then the running of the ropes. Both men trying to hit each other but a lot of dodging going on; usually you would see some respect following such a sequence, but not today. And then it began, Shibata started asking Ishii to hit him with his best shot. Back-and-forth punches between for a while, til a running knee lift from Shibata. He followed up by disrespecting Ishii with some non-chalant foot shoves, angering Ishii enough to stand up and confront him.

Ishii with a snapmare followed by a kick to the back. Shibata sat there disappointed at the lack of power and stood up. Ishii sat down and offered him a free kick to the back. Shibata kicked him and Ishii winced a little. Shibata returned the favour and sat down, giving Ishii a free shot. Again, no selling Ishii’s kick and standing back up again. The back-and-forth free kicks to the back continued, with similar results; Shibata no selling and Ishii selling more with each kick. After Shibata won the kick battle, the next stage was a chopfest.

Again, Shibata no-sold the chops and asked for more. Ishii knocked him down with the last chop, but Shibata immediately nipped up (HBK style) and punched him stiff in the face. Shibata picked him up, Ishii countered in to a back drop. Ishii worked him over in the corner with punches and chops. A big clothesline in the corner from Ishii was again no-sold by Shibata, who grabbed Ishii, placed him in the corner, and struck him with some powefful forearms. Shibata ran to the other corner and back to jump kick Ishii in the head.

Rest period time. Shibata locked in a headlock, and traisitioned in to an abdominal stretch. Ishii tried walking to the ropes, so Shibata locked in an octupus stretch. Ishii got to the ropes and Shibata wasted no time letting go. Shibata got Ishii in the corner and worked the boot on his face several times. Striker said the move is used to cause rashes in the skin that will burn later in the match; just so you know. Now it was Ishii’s turn to no-sell, as Shibata continued to strike with minimal damage. Ishii started to use his wide frame to bump Shibata across the ring as he continued to take strikes to the face. The crowd were going crazy for this.

One big strike from Ishii knocked Shibata down to the corner. Ishii’s turn to work his boot on Shibata’s head. Again, Shibata asked for punishment and no-sold some stiff punches. Shibata backed Ishii back to the middle of the ring, and after absorbing more strikes, delivered his one big strike, knocking Ishii down to corner. A running dropkick to Ishii’s head, but it didn’t do much as he stood up and delivered a quick lariat. Another dropkick from Shibata knocked Ishii down, and for the first time both men were left laying.

Shibata recovered first and tried to lock in an armbar. Ishii rolled through to try eleviate the pressure while Shibata kept hold of his arm , despite both shoulders on the mat. Usually there would be a pinfall here, but apparently NJPW officials don’t count it as one. Shibata rolled through to lock it in but Ishii got the rope break with his leg. Shibata punished Ishii with some stomps. Ishii recovered and a mini “kick to the head vs. clothesline” battle started, with neither man going down. After some clotheslines, Shibata surprised Ishii with a German suplex. Ishii stood up and surprised Shibata with a German suplex.

A kick to Ishii’s head, and a clothesline to Shibata knocked him down. They tried to stand up, but the exhaustion got to both men and they fell back to the canvas. After a short time on the mat, they recovered and the strikes returned. Ishii delivered a powerbomb in to a near-fall. Shibata recovered and continued to work on his arm. Ishii knocked Shibata down, and surprised him with a missile dropkick to the back from the top turnbuckle.

Another near-fall for Ishii. A short time later, a Death Valley Driver got Shibata a near-fall. After more hard-hitting action, Ishii took it to the next level by falling skull first in to Shibata. After another clothesline no-sell on Shibata, Ishii headbutted Shibata with zero give. I’m not joking, Shibata returned the favour with a headbutt of his own. Both men tried for the headbutt at the same time. Seriously, you won’t see this anywhere else, whether you love or hate it. Shibata finished the headbutt exchange with a high dropkick. Pace quickened, as both men want this to end. More crazy strikes back-and-forth. Shibata struck Ishii with a running kick, dropped on top and pinned him for the 1-2-3. Katsuyori Shibata – New NEVER Openweight champion. And he definitely earned it. The medics came in with ice packs, beginning the recovery process the second the match ended.

Excitement Level: **** 1/2

It disturbs me when I see them banging heads, due to the concussion research, but the rest of the match was unpredictable, hard-hitting, and had a different tone compared to the average match. The fans were seriously in to it, and I can safely say it was at least the third best match of the night. Matches like these are as brutal as you’re ever going to see without introducing outside objects.

Match #8 Shinsuke Nakamura vs. AJ Styles for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship – Billed as the “Dream Match”, this would be the first time Nakamura and AJ wrestled each other in a singles contest. Before the match, a video package showed interviews with Nakamura (who only spoke in Japanese with no translations) and AJ Styles over their title fight. I’ll admit, this was the match I was most looking forward to, as I watched AJ in TNA for years, and Nakamura made me a fan last year at Wrestle Kingdom IX. Instead of calling the action like the previous match, I’ll whittle this down to bullet point highlights:

  • Striker talked about Styles’ back injury scare, and they came to the conclusion it wasn’t serious enough to effect his performance.
  • Striker asked Yoshi Tatsu if he thought the Styles Clash was a dangerous move. Yoshi agreed, as he broke bones in his neck after a botched Styles Clash during a match. Yoshi blamed AJ for it on commentary. After the injury occurred, AJ blamed the botch on Yoshi, saying he didn’t lift his head and take the move the right way; instead he tucked it in and put Styles in the awkward position of being blamed for it. Styles wished him well, but ultimately did not take the blame.
  • Slow in the beginning, with each man in the “feeling out” process and showing each other respect.
  • AJ Styles played the back injury up. Nakamura tried to press forward but the referee shoved him back. Nakamura turned his back long enough for AJ to magically recover and hit him from behind.
  • A long back-and-forth between them ended with Nakamura hitting AJ with a modified backbreaker.
  • Nakamura getting evil on AJ with some stiff kicks to the stomach, followed by a kick to the head after AJ grabbed his leg.
  • Nakamura laid AJ horizontal across the top rope in the corner and drove his knee in to his back.
  • After Nakamura tried the same thing in the opposite corner, AJ countered and nailed him with his signature springboard flying forearm.
  • AJ tried for a suplex, Nakamura resisted. On the third attempt AJ snap suplexed him in to the corner.
  • Calf killer immediately noticed by Nakamura who made the ropes for the break.
  • Cool spinning wheel kick by Nakamura. Soon followed up by a backcracker, and a German Suplex release
  • Calf killer in the middle of the ring! Nakamura reversed to an armbar, but AJ broke it up with a stiff blow to the face.
  • Nakamura hit the Boma Ye (knee strike to the face) from the second rope! Both men tired from the match so no pin attempt.
  • The match pace went sky high as both men slugged it out with everything they had. At the end of a long sequence of punch, kicks, and counters, Styles hit Nakamura with the Pele kick. Nakamura followed with a shining wizard.
  • A 450 spalsh from AJ picked up a near-fall, leaving him frustrated.
  • After a backfist from AJ, Nakamura timed a perfect jumping armbar takedown. He kept the armbar locked in and grabbed AJs leg so he couldn’t use it to find a rope break. AJ sat up in the hold and Nakamura’s shoulders were down (but again no pin-fall). AJ picked Nakamura up with one arm and delivered the Styles Clash! False Finish #1
  • Styles lifted Nakamura to the turnbuckle for a Super Styles Clash. Nakamura countered him and hit a super Michinoku Driver. Another near-fall.
  • Nakamura hit the Bona Ye in a vicious manner to the back of AJ’s head. He nailed it one more time and rolled him, picking up the pin-fall victory and retaining his IWGP Intercontinental Championship!
  • After the match, Nakamura sat in front of a fallen AJ. He smiled at AJ and extended an invitation to “fist bump”. AJ thought about it, and in the end decided to fist bump with Nakamura, showing respect to the champion for the valiant effort. Nakamura thanked the fans with a “YeaaOh!”

They have great chemistry, so I can’t wait to see this again. Who knows? It could happen sooner than we think. Definitely a nominee for Match of the Year. Although the following match could also be nominated. I see no faults with this, and the fans loved it, so the entertainment rating is obvious. The title didn’t change hands, but Nakamura still had to “earn” his right to retain. Both men went over in this historic showdown.

Entertainment Level: *****

Match #9 Kazuchika Okada (c) (with Gedo) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship – Since 2011, these two men have dominated Japanese wrestling. Tanahashi was considered the “Hulk Hogan” of Japan for several years, having earned the respect of his peers, and his country. Okada’s spent several years trying to take Tanahashi’s position as the #1 man in NJPW. Even when Okada held the title, Tanahashi was still considered “the man”. The main events historic value hanged on the outcome; either Tanahashi would continue his dominance in to the new year, or Okada would prove all doubters wrong, defeat Tanahashi and become “the man”.

While Okada’s gimmick is one you would usually consider fitting of a heel, Okada rarely displays heel tendencies. It’s a different philosophy in New Japan, where the #1 guy is the most supported; not the guy who is booed heavily. Tanahashi is the super hero who fights for the people, while Okada fights for money and fame. Ironically, the Japanse fans love “The Rainmaker”, his several year feud with Tanahashi has got him over in a big way. They still love Tanahashi, but his popularity may have waned slightly. Matt Striker said they remind him of Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair; which is a decent comparison. Again, this match is long (almost forty minutes!) so I’ll give the bullet point highlights:

  • Unlike the previous year, Tanahashi did not do the Air Guitar entrance. Okada had a big entrance with raining money.
  • Okada’s mind games in the beginning set the tone for the match. Usually it wouldn’t bother Tanahashi, but the mind games reminded him of recent events so he became angry. Instead of making mistakes, he focused on his gameplan, and used his anger at the right moments.
  • After a staredown, Tanahashi slapped Okada, provoking him in to picking the pace up. Okada won the exchanged and got the early advantage.
  • Some old school mat wrestling. Exchanging headlocks and the like. Tanahashi seemed to prefer the slower pace.
  • Tanahashi started his gameplan of taking out Okada’s legs, starting with the right. His plan was to weaken the effect of The Rainmaker lariat finisher.
  • After Okada dropkicked Tanahashi to the outside, they fought out there. Okada kicked him over a railing, then a cross body over the same railing. Okada returned to the ring and waited for Tanahashi to return before the 20-count (in Japan and ROH it’s a 20 count, not 10).
  • Okada kept the advantage for a long time with big impact moves and the use of headlocks. Tanahashi tried to dropkick Okada but he dodged and laughed at the attempt. Okada missed the back splash which gave Tanahashi the opportunity for a comeback.
  • A dropkick to Okada’s knee. Tanahashi on the offensive again with a dragon screw.
  • After a lackluster battle on the turnbuckle, Tanahashi continued his gameplan with a dragon screw in the ring ropes, followed by a Sling Blade on the ring apron. Tanahashi found some energy and hit the perfect cross body to Okada from the top turnbuckle to the outside. Okada made it back in the ring at 19.
  • Cloverleaf by Tanahashi. Struggled to turn him over before Okada reached the ropes for the break.
  • Okada took the advantage again with three dropkicks in a row. Followed up with a sick front dropkick from the top turnbuckle and halfway across the ring to hit Tanahashi. After an elbow drop from the top, Okada signalled for The Rainmaker.
  • The first attempt missed, Tanahashi ducked under but still ran in to a Tombstone piledriver attempt. Tanahashi countered it and rolled him up for a near-fall. Tanahashi went back to his gameplan of taking out the legs of the champion.
  • After another dragon screw, Tanahashi locked in the cloverleaf again. Striker wanted him to lean back on it, which eventually he did to great effect, til Okada grabbed the rope for a break.
  • After another sling blade, Tanahashi missed the frog splash. Okada took advantage with the tombstone piledriver for a near-fall. He picked Tanahasi up and hit The Rainmaker, Tanashi kicked out at 2. False Finish! Okada couldn’t believe it.
  • A frog splash from Okada got him another near-fall. Tanahashi soon recovered and hit The Rainmaker for a near-fall. Both men were exhausted and the crowd showed their respect.
  • After aniother sling blade, Tanahashi followed up with a full nelson suplex pin for another near-fall. Then he finally hit the frog splash on Okada’s back, rolled him over, and frog splashed him again! Okada kicked out at 2! Another false finish.
  • Tanahashi made a mistake, another cross body gave Okada the chance to dropkick him out of the air. After fighting for position, Tanahashi bounced off the ropes and ran in to a perfect dropkick. Okada tried the Rainmaker again and missed. Instead he delivered a Geman suplex without releasing his grip.
  • Tanahashi slapped Okada for another Rainmaker attempt. Both men fell to a knee and Okada kept hold of his arm. They stood up and Okada hit the Rainmaker! And another Rainmaker! And finally, the biggest Rainmaker! Okada pinned Tanahashi for the victory, and retained the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
  • Tanahashi was escorted to the back. Gedo got on the microphone and spoke the fans in Japanese. Yoshi did a really bad job of translating for the English fans, but generally Okada thanked the fans and his opponent, and he was the man to beat. The fans loved it, and the show ended with them congratulating Okada for overcoming his longest rival.

Excitement Level: *****

Conclusion – It’s a long event, even more so if you watch the entire pre-show as well. It’s best to start from the IWGP Junior tag match, because there’s not much to see before then. After that it was action all the way. It was all about professional wrestling, there were no silly segments or backstage interviews; the entire show consisted of wrestling matches and some video packages. Just like last year, it didn’t feel as long as it was. Every match had something to offer, even if it was only brief moments, so there wasn’t any time to rest. Having every match (but one) on the card be for the title meant they were all important. Even if I didn’t particularly know the wrestlers involved, it didn’t take away from the drama of the champion(s) defending their titles.

The negatives. The commentary was all over the place, Kevin Kelly should have led things but it seemed like Striker wanted to call the action, ask Yoshi questions, and give silly comparisons. Having really enjoyed Jim Ross and Matt Striker last year at Wrestle Kingdom IX, JR’s presence was missed, and Striker admitted to his annoying qualities during the broadcast. It always felt like Striker wanted to have a conversation, but with Kelly focusing on calling the matches, and Yoshi sitting there as a spectator, Striker didn’t know who to talk too. I guess Yoshi was supposed to be there to give English-speaking fans more insight; but he ended up being a fan and rarely spoke up. It’s like he didn’t understand Striker at times, so he would just give the automatic response of “yeah”. Despite this combination, it didn’t take away from the wrestling in the ring, and at times Kelly and Striker played their parts and enhanced the matches and talent.

The only other minor criticism was the overuse of interference. It seems the American influence is becoming greater in the booking. I’m not sure why that is, it could just be laziness, or perhaps they want their fans to boo more? Still, it’s just a minor nitpick and I’m sure it doesn’t happen as often on other shows. What I liked most about the PPV was the steady build. It felt like they placed the matches in the right order, we got the right main events with the right players, and they delivered! The two main events are match of the year candidates and we’re only a week in to 2016. If you read all of this, and didn’t see the show, I would feel sorry because you really didn’t want to spoil this event; you should have found a way to see it. I never want to insult anyone, but this PPV was so good you should feel ashamed if you deprived yourself of quality wrestling.

Just like last year, I am going to predict that Wrestle Kingdom X will remain my favourite PPV of the year. And what about the story of AJ Styles and Nakamura finishing up with NJPW after Wrestle Kingdom and making their way to WWE? It’s another topic for discussion, but I feel like I need to end this piece before someone complains about its length. Also, apologies for any typos, It’s a big article, and that’s what Wrestle Kingdom X deserves for entertaining my father and I from start to finish. Have a good night, and thanks for making it to the end!

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