NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 9
As I've covered in the past, NJPW is pretty big on getting as many people onto their dome show matches as possible. Starting with this year, they instituted a 15 man Royal Rumble style battle royal on the pre-show. It's basically the "vets, mid carders, and young lions we had no plans for" battle royal, with guys like Liger, Nagata, Tiger Mask IV, Hiro Saito, Yoshi-Hashi, Yoshiaki Fujiwara, The Great Kabuki, etc. Old as shit Fujiwara is really the star here, as he gives the BUSINESS to all of the (much) younger guys he interacts with. Lol at Taka getting a Kabuki mist/Fujiwara arm bar combo. It's a pre-show battle royal. You're obviously not getting much out of it. It comes down to Yuji and Yoshi-Hashi, and ends with a big backdrop hold from Yuji to win a trophy.
Young Bucks vs Time Splitters vs Forever Hooligans vs reDragon IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships
After a 15 man battle royal, the official show starts a 4 way tag match. A junior tag match, at that. NJPW brought in crazy PRIDE lady for ring announcements, which is tremendous. Coming into this, reDRagon holds the IWGP JR and ROH tag team championships. This is a junior 4 way tag. Of course there is no story at all. Even as a junior spotfest, it isn't particularly impressive or interesting. Absolutely nothing interesting here. I mean, fuck. The Bucks do a flipping springboard tombstone (called the Indie Taker), and that's not even the finish. reDRagon win with a headkick/brainbuster combo on Alex Koslov to win and retain their titles. I can't understand why that's their tag finisher when they have about 10 different tag sequences during their matches that look far more devastating. Titles retained.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan/Satoshi Kojima/Tomoaki Honma vs Golbal Force Bullet Club
This is the ULTIMATE version of the BC, with Yujiro, Bad Luck Fale, and JEFF JARRETT! Boy, can you get any bigger and brighter than that? Karen pushes and slaps the shit out of Honma for some reason. Best of all, there are actually even worse versions of the Bullet Club out there. There is nothing going on here besides Karen screaming and Honma being very over. Jeff accidentally hits Yujiro with the guitar. Yujiro is then hit with the 3D and kokeshi leading to the faces winning.
Toru Yano/Naomichi Marufuji/TMDK vs Suzuki-Gun
Well, fuck this match. How do you top a nothing 6 man tag with a borderline joke heel stable? Why, with a nothing 8 man tag with a borderline joke stable and Yano, of course. Yano is bordering on Brian Knobs tier for me. Fucking hate that dude. TMDK look physically impressive, but they have zero personality. Makes perfect sense that they'd go to NXT. Shelty B looks flabby and sick, and Marufuji brought his shitty superkicks with him. I like Archer, though. After how bad he was as Lance Hoyt, he had a good WWE run on the C shows and could have gone farther. Marufuji wins with a knee strike. Why does NJPW insist on putting on such fluff before intermission? It will always drive me crazy. Like...these aren't even matches that should be on the dome show to begin with. These would be mid card matches on a Road To... show.
Kazushi Sakuraba vs Minoru Suzuki UWFi Rules
Shout out to UWFI. Suzuki comes out in all white. Including his hair. Basically, this can only end via KO, submission, or stoppage. I don't believe they are incorporating the actual points system that UWFi used. Some really great grappling. Tempers start to flare as they slap the shit out of each other on the apron. I'm not sure that and fighting on the floor is really in line with UWFi rules. Nor are kimuras on the entrance ramp. Susuki's arm is gravely injured after Sak refuses to break said kimura. So now you have Minoru fucking Suzuki working as the fighting from underneath sympathetic babyface. How weird. Sak kicks the shit out of the arm, and then Suzuki gets pissed and slaps the shit out of Sak. Suzuki is able to make it to the ropes when the armbar was locked on. Saku is just a dick with this arm work. It's a neat role reversal for both men. Suzuki wins via rear naked choke. A simple, but well executed match. If only Saku wasn't so washed physically after getting his brain splattered for 15 years in MMA. They share an embrace after the match.
Tomohiro Ishii vs Togi Makabe NEVER Championship
Would you believe that this match starts with a strike battle? Can you believe such things? Not even that, fucking powerslam battles, too. Ishii does chops to the throat, because he's a fucking asshole potato man. This is every Ishii match you've ever seen. I'm very over it. Only so many times I can watch this little dude being like "hit me, breh, and then I'll hit you" 30 times a match. Seriously considering just skipping to the second half of the show. Ishii does his best to take everything on his head and neck, including the strikes. That guy is going to be an absolute mess in his 50s and 60s. You don't have to blast each other full force with every strike, guys. This shit is fake. There's working snug, and there's being ridiculous. Makabe wins with a King Kong knee drop. New champion.
Ryusuke Taguchi vs Kenny Omega IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Man, I'm really questioning my decision to watch this show. Or at least the first half. Omega is trash. I don't give a shit if he is athletic and can do comedy spots. TRASH. His shitty comedy spots make me want to die. This fucking weeb with his stupid ass hair. This ain't a kideo game, mother fucker. Canadian piece of shit. I mean, I know a number of Canadians, and they are generally very good people under their racism, but fuck Kenny Omega. Never mind that he has the Young Bucks as his back up. There is zero story or selling here. Omega wins with the One Winged Angel. Fuck Final Fantasy. New champion. I can not believe this sack of shit would win the G1 a year and a half later.
Karl Anderson/Doc Gallows vs Kirooki Goto/Katsuyori Shibata IWGP Tag Team Championships
Shibata is like the nega-Brock Lesnar. Both were young hot stars who were given the keys to the kingdom, both left their companies in 2004, both went into MMA, and both returned to their home promotion in 2012. In WWE, Brock was given the most monstrous push imaginable, being positioned as by far the biggest star in the company and dominating everyone. In NJPW, Shibata has been kept at arm's length from anything important, despite his popularity. It's an interesting look at how different the cultures are in American and Japan. Also, Shibata killed a dude in a match. Maybe that has something to do with it. His MMA career was...less than impressiv, as well. 4-11-1 is not king bad ass material, to be honest. I like Goto. I like Shibata. Anderson is capable of some neat spots. Gallows is awful. Considering how much I've disliked the show up to this point, I'm not excited for this. I'll give this to Anderson: He at least cut out a lot of booze weight when he went to WWE. Gallows seemed to gain it all, though. Goto accidentally knocks Shibata off the apron, and then he's stuck as FIP with no one to hot tag. At least it is a story. Once Shibata does make it to the ring, he's already weakened. This is perfunctory, but not bad, which means pretty good based on the card so far. I enjoy Goto/Shibata as bash bros. After a tossing GTS, Shibata pins Gallows with the PK. New champions.
Tesuya Naito vs AJ Styles
AJ attacks during Naito's entrance, because he's a dirty foreigner. Very uncouth. AJ always bumps huge, but he bumps for Naito like he's Bruiser Brody. It's kind of dope. AJ's focus is on Naito's leg. Some really neat selling from Naito. AJ is just so god damn good. Everything he does looks amazing. I'm enjoying that Naito is still trying to do his normal jumpy moves, but everything looks janky or it takes him too long get them off and allows for AJ to get after him. Most dudes at this point will just grab their knee for a second and do their moves like nothing happened, then go back to adjusting the knee pad. AJ wins with an avalanche Styles Clash in a quite good match.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs Kota Ibushi IWGP Intercontinental Championship
I'm not sure what the exact build was here, but it seems to be that Nakamura was his normal disrespectful self, and Ibushi is out to prove he's not just a goofy junior who wrestles blow up dolls. Nak comes out as the literal king of strong style, complete with crown, cape, and Invincible era MJ jacket. Instead of Nak being cunty and Ibushi flipping around, this match starts with the two working a shoot style feeling out process. Shit immediately gets real when Ibushi shows he's not going to put up with Nak's noodle arm shit. And that pisses Nak off something fierce. Ibushi mocking him did not help. There is a decidedly malicious feel to Nak's antics tonight. He's being an absolute asshole, and it is wonderful. Even more wonderful is that Ibushi is giving it right back. At one point, Ibushi just gets fed the fuck up with Nak being a cunt, so he starts punching him in the head. And then Nak uses Red Shoes as a distraction to punch Ibushi full force in the face. And he REVELS in it. How does Ibushi respond? By unleashing his inner grumpy cunt, of course. Head stomps, mocking taunts, a BOMAYE to Nakamura! More head stomps. Punching in the back of the neck. Something busted Nak open, and he beats the SHIT out of Ibushi for it. Literally shoves his foot in Ibushi's mouth. Lol. Nakamura wins with a big boot after being unable to hit the Boma Ye. Man. This was WONDERFUL. Match of a generation. Just excellent in every way. I'm hard pressed to find a match as good as this for probably 10-15 years. It's just incredible.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kazuchika Okada IWGP Championship
Good luck following Nak/Ibushi. However, if there are two guys in NJ to do it, it is these two. Crowd is very hot and very split. This match starts with a lot of headlocks, but unlike your normal "We're going long, let's stall with headlocks", they're actually competing and doing it to assert dominance. They start throwing 'bows shortly after, because this shit is personal. Tanahashi ain't ready to give up his spot as company ace yet. A year ago, fans voted for Nakamura/Tanahashi for the IC title to headline the show instead of Okada/Naito for the IWGP title. A year before that, Tanahashi defeated Okada. Understandably, Okada has a real chip on his shoulder when it comes to Tanahashi. He's screaming at him, blasting him with strikes far harder than he normally does. Tanahashi hits a particularly crazy High Fly Flow, from the ring OVER the guard rail. And the ring itself is on a raised platform. And he didn't even use the ropes for spring. He jumped from the buckle itself. Tanahashi focuses mostly on the legs of Okada. Some nifty weird angle dragon screws in this. The way they're able to get the crowd so hot this deep into a 4 hour show, after such an incredible match right before it, is amazing. Tanahashi wins after 4 or 5 HFF in a row. Title retained. Another great, great match. Okada cries the entire way to the back.
What an uneven show. There's a big difference between building a show slowly and throwing filler out. Out of 11 matches, 5 were blatant filler. The last 3 matches were very good to great, with Nakamura vs Ibushi being a once in a generation match. Just incredible. All the stars. Okada and Tanahashi getting the crowd just as hyped right after was a miracle effort from them. Typical NJ: Top of the card knocks it out of the park while the mid card is entirely skippable fluff.