Monday morning, I woke up at 2am to watch NJPW’s WrestleKingdom 10 live. And while I had some streaming issues, it was still a really good show. There was also a ton of news to come out of New Japan the next day, but this will just be about WK10, and we’ll get to that other stuff later. It’s been a busy first week of 2016, so let’s not waste any more time.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Titles: ReDRagon (champions) vs. The Young Bucks vs. Roppangi Vice vs. Matt Sydal & Ricochet.
The Young Bucks won in what was a fine opener. Nothing too special that we haven’t seen from this division before, but still fun. The highlight for me was from someone who wasn’t even in the match, as Cody Hall hit a Razor’s Edge on Ricochet, throwing him over the top rope onto a pile of people. I think it’s the first time Hall has successfully used his dad’s finisher, and may indicate he will be getting more screen time in 2016. Everyone did a good job here, not complaints. ***1/2
NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Titles: Toru Yano & The Briscoe Brothers vs. Toma Tonga, Yujiro Takahashi, & Bad Luck Fale.
Mark and Jay Briscoe were Yano’s mystery partners, and I wasn’t a huge fan even though the decision made sense with the partnership between New Japan and Ring of Honor. I just don’t like the Briscoe’s gimmick much, Mark in particular. They are very talented though, and I hope they have a good run in New Japan. The story of the match was Toma Tonga though, desperately trying to win his first title, trying to do it all himself, and coming up short. It made the match more interesting then a standard New Japan 6-man tag match. The crowd was pretty dead for this though, and the heat segments didn’t really do much to get anyone interested. **
Ring of Honor World Title: Jay Lethal (champion) vs. Michael Elgin
Having a ROH World Title match at the Tokyo Dome is a pretty big deal, though maybe not the best choice. The Japanese crowd loves Elgin, and was very into the times he was in control and showing off his strength, but that’s not the story they went with. Instead, Lethal spent most the time in boring control spots, losing my interest and the crowds. We would perk back up when Elgin took over, but those times were short and too few. They were having a typically nice match, but they really should have played to the Japanese crowd more. Lethal won very anticlimactically. **
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title: Kenny Omega (champion) vs. KUSHIDA
Both guys came out in time traveler entrances. KUSHIDA did his normal Back to the Future thing, with Taguchi dressed as Doc Brown, and Omega came out as a Terminator. They lost my interest very early in this match with interference from the Young Bucks, though it did lead to an impressive trash-can assisted moonsault from Omega. They got the bull shit out of the way early though, and had a really good match from then on. Unfortunately, it was pretty much the same match they have had a few times already this year. I predicted this one correctly, as KUSHIDA won with a rollup and Omega will move out of the Jr. division. ***
IWGP Tag Team Titles: Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson (champions) vs. Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma
The whole point of this match was to give Honma his big moment, which is why I thought it was weird that Makabe got the pinfall. It doesn’t really matter, but still. Guns and Gallows has owned the tag team division all year, so it’s good to see new blood holding the gold. The match was good, better then I thought it would be, but nothing super special. ***
Hirooki Goto vs. Tetsuya Naito
I figured Naito would get the win here, but that wasn’t the case. Goto beat off Los Ingobernables and pinned Naito, probably setting him up for an IWGP title match in the future. I have to imagine Naito will have more schemes up his sleeve as we go through 2016 though. The match was disappointing, as Naito didn’t really do much and Goto beat him relatively easily. **1/2
NEVER Openweight Title: Tomohiro Ishii (champion) vs. Katsuyori Shibata
This was the match I was most looking forward to, and these guys did not disappoint. They hit each other fast and hard, only slowing down to try and one-up each other with forearms and kicks. I love this type of match. Eventually they stopped fooling around with trying to be tougher then each other and went at each other full throttle, leading to a very exciting last five minutes. This was the first great match of 2016. ****
IWGP Intercontinental Title: Shinsuke Nakamura (champion) vs. AJ Styles
This was a bit of a dream match, and they delivered. They played into AJ’s back injury early on, and Nakamura worked his arm as well, leading him to hitting a one-armed Styles Clash late in the match, but unable to roll it over like normal. These two worked so well together for almost never being in the ring together, throwing out impressive counter and dodging each other’s attacks. Nakamura won with two vicious Boma Ye’s. ****
IWGP Heavyweight Title: Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi.
Expectations were high for this match, and they delivered, just like last year. It started slow but purposeful, with Tanahashi targeting the knee of Okada. As they picked up the pace, the knee work became more forceful and, well, dickish, as Tanahashi took every opportunity to kick or stomp the knee. I would have liked to see a little more selling of the leg from Okada, but he sold when it counted, like dropping Tanahashi with an inverted neckbreaker or a Tombstone but being unable to go for a pin because of the knee damage. Tanahashi used a Texas Cloverleaf towards the end, making it seem like Okada might tap for the ultimate humiliation after last year. They used each other’s finishers, someone rarely seen in New Japan so it feels fresh, and eventually Okada won with the Rainmaker. A great match, though I feel last years was better. ****1/2
Overall, a very good WrestleKingdom. The early stuff was fine, but the final three matches once again delivered in a big way.