NJPW King of Pro Wrestling
Oct 8 2018
I missed this live as I was coming back from Germany and wXw World Tag Team League (which incidentally was an incredible experience. If you’re thinking about doing 16 Carat then get on that ASAP. It’s going to be incredible.
Commentary here comes from Kevin Kelly, Rocky Romero and Chris Charlton, which is my favourite commentary team in wrestling right now.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Suzuki-gun (c) vs. Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask IV
The vets come in looking energised and certainly have the crowd support. The match is fine but the stupid whisky spot to break up the near fall is almost Russoeque and the ref bumps are beyond pissing me off in these garbage Suzuki-gun/Bullet Club undercard matches. Naturally the challengers get a visual pin but, shock of shocks, the referee is unable to recover in time to count it. Liger tries so hard here but the bullshit overwhelms everything and I pretty much hated this.
Final Rating: *1/2
Juice Robinson & Toa Henare vs. Great Bash Heel
This has some repercussions for tag league at the end of the year. GBH are surely going to be involved but a tag might be a way to get Juice rebounding from his US title loss.
The image of Honma hitting Kokeshi blesses this match. That’s about all you need to know. He’s starting to get his mojo back after a long time on the shelf. Henare shows some decent fire and almost overshadows Juice, which is a surprise. When he tries to get in Makabe’s face he gets ENDED with a lariat. GBH pick up the win here.
Final Rating: **1/2
Bullet Club (Hangman Page, The Young Bucks & Chase Owens) vs. Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Guerrillas of Destiny & Taiji Ishimori)
The OG’s come out to the original BC music, which is cute. I almost skipped this but then I remembered Ishimori is one of the best juniors in the world and I wanted to see him do high speed shit. The match focuses on Matt Jackson’s back injury. One that’s been a storyline in NJPW for the entire year. The match is riddled with little issues. An Ishimori handspring not working. A Page moonsault to the floor coming up short. It’s annoying that the two most interesting guys make the bigger mistakes. The Gun Stun on Chase that finishes is awkward too. “He dropped him dirty” says Rocky. He did. Half the guys in this match looked like they were hungover.
Final Rating: **1/4
CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & Will Ospreay) vs. Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & Takashi Iizuka
Suzuki vs. Ishii is a UK branded feud for Rev Pro. It becomes the focal point of this as they just beat the fuck out of each other and I very much enjoy this style of pro wrestling. “Blokes twatting each other” is my brand. I love that Ishii actually rocks Suzuki with a big forearm here. Suzuki tends to not sell so much for other guys on strikes and it’s telling how much he respects Ishii that he does that for him. Ospreay is coming after Taichi’s Openweight belt, which is overdue in my opinion. The openweight belt hasn’t been open at all recently. It’s a good way to elevate juniors to their inevitable move up. Ospreay is going heavy at some point. Probably quite soon. Will bust out one of my favourite things about the match in dodging a belt shot into a Spanish fucking Fly! Yes mate! Stormbreaker puts Taichi away and Ospreay pinned a heavyweight! I’ve only seen that happen once before!
The other time was just because it was Bone Soldier being a Boner. This actually means something! Well played.
Final Rating: ***1/2
The time has come to announce the newest member of Los Ingobernables de Japon. I have chills. Who is the new man? The gambling promo and the roulette wheel landing on number 6 gives me chills.
LIJ hit the ring and they tease Rocky Romero and Milano Collection AT! It’s not either. It’s this man….
King of Pro Wrestling? More like Shingo Pro Wrestling amirite?
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, BUSHI & Shingo Takagi) vs. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano & Roppongi 3K)
This is an intriguing match because Shingo is dropping in cold, having never wrestled for New Japan before (barring a match in 2007, which was a DG guest match anyway). The CHAOS/LIJ tags used to be crazy good with the guys they had meshing so well. It’s been a while since they felt fresh but the Okada/Naito stuff is as good as ever and Shingo mixes it up well. I’m also pleased that SANADA gets to be in the forefront at the start. Last Falconry puts SHO away and establishes Shingo as a junior killer from the get go.
Final Rating: ***1/4
EVIL vs. Zack Sabre Jr
This is a non-starter as Chris Jericho shows up and attacks EVIL. They do a huge entrance deal for EVIL with him being carried to the ring. One of the druids attacks him though and that’s Jericho.
Easiest pay day of Zack’s career. He goes after the fallen EVIL but a pissed off Naito makes the save.
Final Rating: NR
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Marty Scurll vs. KUSHIDA
This is for the vacant title, vacated after Hiromu got injured. The previous four title holders were in a mini-tournament to determine the new champ. The fans wanted BUSHI so we ended up with Scurll vs. KUSHIDA. Gedoism eh?
As this kicks off Taiji Ishimori has named Robbie Eagles as his tag partner. He’s a very good wrestler and I’m glad he’s getting a chance. We get workhorse Scurll here. I’m of the opinion that Scurll has two great matches a year nowadays. The rest is super shticky. Here he brings little nods toward his goofier persona but also the hard work that made him such a star in the first place (I’m thinking the Ospreay match in York Hall). The work is very good here although they do that dumb ‘person taking big spot makes the pin’ counter that I hate. KUSHIDA’s swank flying armbar off the top rope is a major spot. I’ve been cold on KUSHIDA lately and I don’t like Scurll 90% of the time but they are great wrestlers and they can still go. It has that big match feel too with big heavy landings, like KUSHIDA landing square on his head. I love KUSHIDA’s selling here. Scurll has worked his hand so much that he can’t hook the kimura. He opts instead for Back to the Future and that gets it done. “It only takes a foot to hit the accelerator pedal” – Chris Charlton. Nice. This had a tidy storyline and they kept it simple but everything was executed nearly to perfection. I kinda wish Scurll would wrestle like this more often but I get why he doesn’t.
Final Rating: ****
IWGP #1 Contender’s Match
Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Jay White
Knife pervert comes out dressed like Shinsuke Nakamura as a slap in the face to Okada.
This is a big spot for him as he dropped the ball against Tanahashi when he first came back to New Japan at Wrestle Kingdom. Jay pops me by playing air guitar on Tana’s leg. It’s safe to say he’s grown more comfortable than he was at WK. It’s weird seeing Gedo work as a true heel again; bashing Tanahashi in the knee. “That’s disgusting and I love sneaky shit” – Romero. Tana has been doing knee vs. knee matches for some considerable time but Jay is so relentless that Tana can’t even get into his usual plan. The crowd get freaked out! Jay is so aggressive on offence that Tanahashi looks legitimately in trouble. They have a sensational reversals sequence in this resulting in both guys laying in a forearm at the same time. It shows Jay is so much more comfortable than before. Both in himself and his gimmick and now he’s ready to be Tanahashi’s equal. These things take time. Credit to New Japan for seeing it through. Tana has this finished but this son of a bitch Gedo pulls Red Shoes out.
The storyline stuff with brass knucks and the missed HFF onto the chair is reasonably well done. It’s perhaps not my idea of a great time at the wrestling but it does work. Tana ends up fluking a pin on Swithblade, which is great for White because he came out of this dominating the match and Tana having to rely on a fluke to get the job done.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Post Match: Jay beats Tanahashi down and Okada makes the save!! In making an enemy of Okada, Jay has drawn Okada and Tanahashi, who he least respects, together!
Jado runs out to stop Gedo getting killed and now the Firing Squad are out here. Which leads to a moment where Okada is tempted to help them beat down Gedo only for Tama Tonga to hit the Gun Stun. “What the hell is going on?” – Kelly. Gedo and Jado help the Firing Squad beat Okada down and Jay White has joined the Firing Squad. Jay was originally tapped up for the Bullet Club but turned Kenny Omega down. The suggestion being that Jay was picked by Fale & Tama at the time but may even have been tipped off by Fale & Tama that a split was occurring.
Kenny Omega (c) vs. Kota Ibushi vs. Cody Rhodes
I don’t get this being a three-way. The idea being that there has never been a three-way before and we’re entering a new Western-appealing era.
I personally don’t like three-way matches very much but this does have an interesting dynamic where Kenny even lets Ibushi get a pin on Cody because of the love aspect of their relationship. “Next time, it’s my turn”. Cody is a different kettle of fish altogether. He’s developed positive relationships with both men after trying to take over the Bullet Club earlier in the year.
I love how everyone is really happy for Kota Ibushi to land on them pic.twitter.com/cyOQNDhvJt
— Arn (@ArnoldFurious) October 9, 2018
Cody gets cut open by the eye and all three guys are quickly in the wars. The match is fairly innovative, meshing together the three styles and personalities into a coherent linear narrative. They’ve clearly been working on it for a while. Like a Figure Four where Ibushi breaks it up by kicking Cody and then pinning Omega still in the hold. While Cody isn’t on the level of the other two his work clicks nicely into it. The big spots work too. Cody getting powerbombed through a table. Kota refusing to come off the top to an unsuspecting Kenny. The elimination of Cody does allow Omega and Ibushi to show flashes of that G1 match. When Cody comes back the spots get a little more convoluted. It makes me nostalgic for the G1 match. Cody’s stuff is less good. The spot where he mistimes pushing Kenny to the floor and Omega takes a horrible bump through a table is indicative of how not being on the same page as two faster guys causes problems. Also he does that fucking stupid cradle off a superplex. Will people stop doing that spot? I like Omega apologising to Kota for stopping him winning. It creates a genuine moment where Kota gets mad at his buddy.
Kota utterly no selling Cody and getting mega serious is great. They do a lot of break ups of pins after this and it feels like the match had already peaked and basically I feel Omega is a very self-indulgent main eventer. Omega saves Cody from a chair shot but then murders Kota with finishers until he’s pinned. Cody does a great job on the finish, sliding in to break the pin but not able to get there in time.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Good but not great King of Pro Wrestling show. The last three matches are all you really need. The change in factions is downright weird. I’m not sure what I make of it. Still Kenny continues to change the way New Japan is perceived globally with different match types and the continued rise of globalisation and Gedoism.