Wrestle Kingdom 12 is here and is one of the most anticipated January 4th Tokyo Dome shows ever. AiPT!’s Mark Buckeldee is at the show live and will have a review of the event. I am watching the English commentary stream with Kevin Kelly and Don Callis on New Japan World.
New Japan Rumble: The Rumble is like WrestleMania’s Andre the Giant Geek Battle Royal except New Japan doesn’t pretend it means anything. Participants include Bushi, Delirious, Yuji Nagata, Taka Michinoku, Jyushin Thunder Lyger, and Cheeseburger. Masahito Kakihara wins.
IWGP Junior Tag Team Title Match: Roppongi 3K (C) vs. The Young Bucks
Interesting psychology to the match as one member of each team injures their back during the match. Bucks destroy Yoh’s back leading to a submission win and their 7th IWGP Junior Tag Title. Really good match that shows there are more to the Bucks than just spots.
NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Title Match (Gauntlet Match):
Ishii is stuck here while Cody wrestles Kota Ibushi. Zach Sabre Jr. and Minoru Suzuki would be an awesome team. Suzuki-Gun take out War Machine and Elgin. Suzuki-Gun are quickly eliminated by Chaos. Toru Yano is the MVP as the Sublime Master Thief gets both pins that send his team to the final match, before Beretta gets the final pin with the Dudebuster. Typical Gauntlet match.
Cody vs. Kota Ibushi
This is the only match without a title on the line, but there are definitely title implications. Brandi is at ringside and adds greatly to the match. Cody steps up his game. Terrifying spot as Cody does the Cross Rhodes from the apron to the floor. Ibushi wins following the Phoenix Splash. Excellent match and probably Cody’s best ever.
IWGP Tag Team Title Match: Killer Elite Squad (C) vs. EVIL & SANADA
KES start hot, destroying LIJ, the ringside attendants and the young boys at ringside. Takes a while for the match to get out of first gear. Picks up a little towards the end. Decent enough, but nothing spectacular. EVIL and SANADA get the anticlimactic pin for the belts.
NEVER Openweight Title Match (Hair vs. Hair): Minoru Suzuki (C) vs. Hirooki Goto
Kevin Kelly has been off all night, but effectively sells the symbolism behind the stipulation. Story of the match is Suzuki wants to embarrass Goto and pin him with the Gotch piledriver. Suzuki nearly takes off Goto’s head with a dropkick. Suzuki with some sickening strikes. Fantastic match that Goto wins after a GTR.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match (Four Way Match): Marty Scurll (C) vs. Will Ospreay vs. KUSHIDA vs. Hiromu Takahashi
Non stop action. Match is filled with innovative spots that fit perfectly into the context of the match. Lots of near falls. Somehow the match’s pace picks up as it progresses. Crowd is having a collective heart attack with all the close counts and near submissions. Ospreay finally pins Scurll after an Oscutter to win the title. Amazing match.
Intercontinental Title Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi (C) vs. Jay White
This is easily the biggest match of White’s career. A good showing here, and White is on his way to becoming a star. Crowd doesn’t seem to accept White this high on the card. They are more cheering for Tanahashi than they are rooting against White, if that makes sense. White seemed to get more comfortable as the match progressed. Tanahashi wins clean with the High Fly Flow. Match was good enough, but not sure if it was the star making performance for White they were looking for.
IWGP United States Title Match (No DQ): Kenny Omega (C) vs. Chris Jericho
Interesting fact: Brock Lesnar, Ric Flair, and Chris Jericho are the only men to main event WrestleMania and the January 4th Dome show. Brawl to the outside almost immediately. They destroy the commentary area and we lose Kelly and Callis. Not the type of match they are used to seeing in New Japan and the crowd was very into it. Tables, chairs and blood. Jericho said it would be a war and it was. Ridiculously fun match that Omega wins with the One Winged Angel on a steel chair. A lot of publicity based on this match and it delivered.
IWGP Heavyweight Title Match: Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito
Hard to feel tranquilo after that match, but here we go. The fans LOVE Naito. Okada with pants instead of trunks. Naito’s strategy is to go after Okada’s oft injured neck. Hot ending as the two kick it into high gear after the thirty minuet mark. Okada continues his historic reign after getting the pin with the Rainmaker. Incredible match.
Four days into the New Year and New Japan have set an incredibly high bar. Cody in the best match of his career, the Suzuki-Goto hair match impressed , Jericho-Omega was better than anyone could have imagined, and Okada continues to show why he is the best in the world. Wrestle Kingdom 12 is a can’t miss show. Stay tuned for Mark’s live review!