NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 N2
January 5, 2020
We’re in Tokyo, Japan at the Dome for a historic second night of WK. Never been done before. Last night was great. Now we’re all up at 5am for another slice of awesome.
NEVER Openweight Gauntlet
Togi Makabe, Toru Yano & Ryusuke Taguchi (c) vs. Four Other Teams
I cannot stand gauntlets. There is a ton of fun talent involved though. Ishii, Eagles and Chase have a great time in the opening fall. Ishii nails Chase with the Brainbuster and Chaos advance. Taichi’s Suzuki-gun group are second. Eagles gets a sneaky pin to progress and LIJ are in next. Shingo giving YOSHI-HASHI’s lariat a bit of a no-sell is a highlight. The ref fucks up and Ishii gets pinned by Darkness Falls, even though he kicked out. Ishii, because he’s not a dick, doesn’t beat the crap out of him in full view of the world. Differences between NJPW and Rev Pro. Made in Japan finishes Taguchi off and LIJ win themselves some straps. Hmm. I hate gauntlets and this was a mess with at least one fall going horribly wrong but it was mostly fun.
Final Rating: **1/2
Jushin Liger & Naoki Sano vs. Hiromu Takahashi & Ryu Lee
I was talking to people about this the other day and essentially Liger is going out on top, despite New Japan not pushing him in years. He’s still good enough to hang with anyone. A legendary innovator and sensational wrestler. I remember Liger being on several of the first Japanese comp tapes I got in the mid 90s when I first got properly into wrestling. I still remember his WCW run. That match with Pillman! It’s been a pleasure to watch him over the years. Absolutely one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time. The match is Liger playing a few hits but keeping it competitive, Sano doing another dive and Hiromu and Lee making nice after the injury. Liger busting out the shotei and Brainbuster on Hiromu is great stuff. His execution is perfect and Hiromu wants to take the best possible bump on those spots. “You just want this match to go on forever” – Chris Charlton. This is how I feel because when it’s over, it’s over. Timebomb finishes and Liger’s career is over. I cannot stress how much I love Liger and will miss him performing. Enjoy your retirement, sir. You have earned it.
Final Rating: ***3/4
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo (c) vs. Roppongi 3K
New Japan World experienced some streaming issues after the last match so my Twitter TL was loaded with various complaints about how long it took to come back up. Mine returned during the entrances here so I missed no action. This is a very flippy match but with added dickishness from ELP. The rope walking moonsault back rake is wonderful. Taiji Ishimori is an outstanding pro-wrestler so I’m glad they managed to shoe-horn him onto a Dome show. Then we have powerhouse SHO and his stacker German suplexes on both opponents. The man is a Hoss. A miniature, muscular Hoss but a Hoss nonetheless.
El Phantasmo does an outstanding job of being a prick in this. It makes it that much more satisfying when SHO plants him with a spike Shock Arrow for the belts. This was really good and a show of how good faces are made that much better by good heels.
Final Rating: ****
British Heavyweight Championship
Zack Sabre Jr (c) vs. SANADA
Chris Charlton referencing the Tam O’Shanter Burns Club WK weekend. Lovely. New Japan have this weird thing where SANADA is Zack’s technical equal. It happens every time they wrestle even though SANADA is not billed or styled as a technician against anyone else. Plus it is abundantly clear as they do switches that Sabre is miles ahead in technical terms. I don’t get the obsession with trying to bill SANADA as an equal. It’s like when Hulk Hogan did that one bit of technical wrestling he knew every time he wrestled a technician.
Anyway, they do some decent stuff with Zack taking the lead. SANADA is best when he hits some explosive bits of offence. Zack tries to bring some selling into affairs after taking a dragon screw and then further injuring himself hitting a kick. SANADA, as a worker, is all over the place. I’ve never really understood the appeal but Sabre tries to work around his shortcomings and just tell his own story. SANADA is at his level best when someone else is calling the shots in his matches and this clicks really well after a dodgy start. Then Zack gets the pin and I’m surprisingly happy about it.
Final Rating: ***3/4
IWGP US Championship
Jon Moxley (c) vs. Juice Robinson
These two had a banger last year. Mox won his belt back just yesterday. This is a hard hitting match with solid chemistry. Unlike yesterday it feels like everyone has a logical opponent who they have chemistry with. Mox feels the urge to add plunder to everything but Juice punches a chair into his face to stop that. For some reason the match can’t seem to find a higher gear and it is quite sluggish. Mox gets the Dirty Deeds out of nowhere and the Death Rider finishes. This was fine.
Final Rating: **3/4
Post Match: Minoru Suzuki shows up to challenge Mox!
Mox gets choked out and the Gotch Style Piledriver connects. Minoru wants to be United States champion!
NEVER Openweight Championship
KENTA (c) vs. Hirooki Goto
This is supposed to be Goto getting revenge for all the abuse suffered by his mentor Katsuyori Shibata and the CHAOS faction. But instead we just get Goto, the guy who doesn’t seem to care and only wrestles two good matches and year. Usually in August. This is really sluggish, much worse than the previous match, and very little happens. I blame Goto for a lack of babyface fire. KENTA does fine as a dominating heel, dissecting the gutsy babyface. Unfortunately Goto has no guts or anything to offer. So it feels like a squash. Eventually KENTA slapping Goto in the face wakes him up and the match gets great in a heartbeat. Why don’t you wrestle like this more often? GTR finishes and the last few minutes ruled but everything before was disappointing.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Sapporo Feb 1 & 2
Osaka Feb 9
Tokyo Mar 3
NJ Cup Mar 20 & 21
Sakura Genesis Mar 31
Kagoshima Apr 29
Dontaku May 3 & 4
BOSJ Jun 6
Dominion Jun 14
G1 Climax 30 Oct 16,17,18
Match of Losers
Jay White vs. Kota Ibushi
Ideally you want to blaze through this in 10-15 minutes tops and have them go at a quicker pace than last night. There’s no need for two losers to work a long match. Kota, lunatic that he is, takes a bump into the rail that’s completely unprotected. For the most part this is just a solid wrestling match. There’s nothing wrong with it but it’s a dead rubber match and it feels like it. Then Ibushi enters the Zone!
I absolutely fucking love the Ibushizone. Sadly Jay then shoves the ref in the way and the match resumes its mediocrity. Kota doing something daft is what continually saves the match from this mediocrity. His attempt at springboard top rope cutter results in his legs being swept and he takes a bump onto the top rope. Then Jay hits the urinage off the top! Basically, Kota Ibushi is out here killing himself in a match that means nothing. I appreciate the hustle. As per usual we get a stupid ref bump, telegraphed by the ref’s positioning. In this dead rubber match Gedo feels the need to insert himself twice. As per usual it’s overbooked nonsense but it’s not even an important match. Why even bother? Bladerunner finishes after Gedo antics. This sucked. Ibushi did everything in his power to save it but he couldn’t. I don’t think anyone can rescue this dreadful style of wrestling.
Final Rating: *3/4
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Chris Jericho
It’s weird having Jericho come out here with his old man version of Jay White’s act only he’s better at it and doesn’t need a manager to make it work. Jericho looks horribly out of place wrestling exciting young prospects but against Tana he can work a more methodical pace and get the character stuff to lead. Jericho’s match structure is similar to his other successful NJPW matches, especially Naito. There’s an announce table spot and various other extracurricular activity.
Tanahashi and his fantastic new gear is almost the perfect opponent for someone who’s slowing down because he’s tremendous at any pace. Whether he’s keeping up with younger guys or wrestling veterans his offence looks great. At the end of the day this won’t make a match of the year shortlist or anything but it’s a higher bar than the old guy matches from when I was younger and even the sluggish Triple H matches that aimed for epic and fell short.
Tanahashi’s structuring is what makes it. The high spots are nicely spread out and they sell competently. It’s a good match. They build tension really well, especially with the Boston crab and Jericho switches to the actual Liontamer to get the submission.
Final Rating: ****
IWGP IC Championship
Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito (c)
This has a big match feel with both men having their supporters. They’re basically the two top guys in the promotion and have been for a while. Okada being the big in-ring winner, Naito the big merch shifter and “most popular” poll winner. The match is a slow to start but it is the big main event of the weekend so I’m cool with it. They don’t do rest holds but the big spots in the early going are very spread out. The feeling is the match is going to go long. Okada targets the bad leg that Naito injured the previous night. That injury angle went nowhere but it’s nice to see it revisited. The big spots that they smatter around include some really sick stuff. The poison rana where Okada lands on his neck is terrifying. This is after he’s taken a neckbreaker off the apron.
The poison rana ends up kicking the match into a higher gear with a ridiculous near fall off the running version of Destino. Okada kicking out so late Red Shoes’ palm was getting static off the canvas. Normally those teases come late in the match so it allows the crowd to bite into everything that follows as important, even if it’s just strike duels with both guys on their knees exhausted. I miss the days of the Rainmaker being super protected and for a moment I think Naito will stay down to just one of them. Of course not, but you can dream. Naito does a great job of stressing the importance of not getting hit by moves during this. Frequently fighting for his life to not take a Tombstone because of the ramifications of that happening.
Okada dissecting Naito, going back to the knee and then nailing repeated Rainmakers is good stuff, which also leads into a panicked counter and Naito’s knee injury preventing him from covering. Stardust Press doesn’t get it done but another Destino finishes and Naito wins with one leg. Double champ.
Final Rating: ****3/4
Post Match: no roll call and instead KENTA runs out and attacks Naito.