Welcome, cats and kittens, to yet another installment of the only thing more popular in Japan than Hello Kitty, Cewsh Reviews! We have a special treat for you tonight, as we once again take a trip on over to see what our friends in the Land of the Rising Lariat are up to. But if you’re new to the Japanese wrestling game, or can’t tell one show apart from another, rest assured that this is not just any show. Wrestle Kingdom is the show of shows, the night of kings, and the things that every Japanese wrestler works towards every day of the year until the 4[SUP]th[/SUP] of each January. You could liken it to Wrestlemania, but even that wouldn’t quite say it, because Wrestlemania is just the gala event of WWE, whereas this show features the best from companies all over Japan and America, packed into one supercard to kick off the new year in style so fierce that RuPaul would give it two snaps. This night will see incredible legends meet the challenge of fiery upstarts, the two biggest promotions in Japan clashing and Hiroshi Tanahashi fighting for his life against the world’s biggest dickhead (and he’d take that as a compliment) Minoru Suzuki. But will any of this be any good? Well, the card is great and the deck is stacked, so with our resident Puro Professor Defrost as the benevolent dealer, let’s ante up, and find out.
So without any further ado, let’s do a motherfucking review!
Cewsh: Ah, Wrestle Kingdom. The crown jewel of puroresu each year, and the apple of my eye, this show is very special. But perhaps the biggest reason why it retains this sense of epic happenings is because of the completely awe inspiring production that goes into it. In America, Wrestlemania is a a huge production on an epic scope in front of tens of thousands of people. In New Japan, on the other hand, Wrestle Kingdom is a huge production on an epic scope in front of tens of thousands of people that is also, at the same time, really, really, really fucking cool. Is my enthusiasm showing through yet? This is the hotness all over the place.
Hand in hand with this, this opening video is very much in the New Japan style. It doesn't bother with dramatic voices or weird visual metaphors, it just shows clips to set up the feuds and then shows the wrestlers raring to go and excited about their matches. That's all. And they do that for each and every match, giving every single match on the card equal time and attention. Coincidentally, this also makes every match on the card look important and valuable. CRAZY HOW THAT WORKS, HUH? Then the lights go down, the referees and the endless stream of photographers come out, and its finally time. Wrestle Kingdom HOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Defrost: The No Remorse Corps, Davey Richards and Rocky Romero, defeated Apollo 55, Prince Devitt and Ryusuke Taguchi, for these titles on the October Sumo Hall show. Richards and Romero then made failed attempts at taking the Jr Heavyweight singles title from Prince Devitt leading to this tag title rematch.
Devitt and Taguchi take the Apollo in their name very seriously in their entrance on this show.
Cewsh: Well being an astronaut is serious business.
Wait, did I say astronaut? What I meant was THEY ARE DRESSED LIKE FUCKING ASTRONAUTS.
Now the reason these two men can get away with dressing up like they're on their way top space camp is because they are Apollo 55, and they are pretty much the greatest. We've detailed their exploits over the past few years in...well...detail in past reviews, and if you have read any of those you know full well that this seemingly random team is comprised of perhaps the two best junior heavyweight wrestlers on the planet. But they aren't the champions coming into this match. No, that honor goes to Davey Richards, another junior who we're all aware is thought of very highly indeed, and his partner Rocky Romero.
Yes, that Rocky Romero.
Now Rocky Romero is decidedly not one of the best junior heavyweight wrestlers in the world, and very likely isn't in the top 5 wrestlers currently working named Rocky. But due to his association with Richards and New Japan's ever persistent desire to find some way to push the guy, here he is.
Now the match itself is about what you'd expect from three of the best young junior wrestlers on the planet and their random friend. The action is fast paced, hard hitting and decidedly cool looking, and really makes for the kind of match you love to have opening enormous super cards like this. Too epic a match would burn the fans out. A boring match would kill them for the next match (and booking wisdom dictates that the second match on a big card is usually the one that needs the most help getting a crowd reaction). So this match straddles the line by giving us a fun romp through the world of the juniors without getting too involved. Davey does his kicking. Devitt does his jumping. Taguchi does his thrusting. And all is well with the land.
75 out of 100
Defrost: Ah, the Tokyo Dome. Where Jr. Heavyweight matches go to die. No one really cares about this match. Doesn't help that Richards and Romero and are not what you'd call over in New Japan. The crowd gets going somewhat when Devitt gets the hot tag and Apollo 55 runs wild, but it is still Jrs. in the Dome. It is what it is.
The match is basic. Get the heat on Taguchi, hot tag, on to the finish. Everyone here knows what they're doing so the match is very good. The best part of the match is the build to the Tope Con Hilo spot. That spot keeps getting dashed by Richards and Romero until finally Devitt and Taguchi are able to pull it off to the biggest reaction of the match.
The match finishes well too. This for me would be in the top handful of Davey Richards matches in New Japan with his match against Koji Kanemoto on the 2010 Kobe World Hall show and the 2011 Super Jr. semi final against Kota Ibushi.
Defrost: This is an exhibition match for the CMLL Luchadors Mascara Dorada, Atlantis, and Valiente for the special Fantasticamania shows coming up later in January. Last year’s set of shows, the last Mistico worked before jumping to WWE as a matter of fact, were a huge success selling out two straight nights in Korakuen Hall not to mention all the masks they sold. Also of note is that this is Liger's first match in New Japan in months as he has been in Mexico working for CMLL.
And now Astro Boy has come out. Don't know why. Just did.
He has a shirt similar to the New Japan logo but with Astro Boy instead. Now he seems to be friends with Jushin Liger. I have no idea what is going on.
Apparently this match is conducted under Lucha Libre rules where tags are not needed. Last year's Lucha wackiness was better than this year's Lucha wackiness. Too much in the way of mask trying to take offing. There is a cool dive sequence that gets botched at the end. Not enough Taichi being Taichi. Not enough Liger. Too many guys here methinks.
Cewsh: Let's be clear. There are a lot of awesome people in this match. There is the ever present walking pillar of greatness that is Jushin Liger, there's the great young cocky prick Taichi, there's KUSHIDA who has been personally endorsed by this very blog, and there are a bunch of luchadors who know their business and even TAKA Michinoku is here. And these things are all great. But unfortunately for them, only one person in this match is Valiente.
Valiente, who was last seen in Cewsh Reviews doing this...
...much to my delight, comes in here as perhaps the least important person in this match and just completely steals the show. He's lighting fast for such a brawny dude, and he snaps off moves with a smoothness and crispness that none of his lucha peers have ever seemed able to replicate. In fact, watching this I would be lying if I said that I was anything but sad whenever anyone else from his team was in the ring. Luckily, though, even though I was crying in a corner that Valiente had forsaken me, Taichi and TAKA were getting on with the business of being incredible heels. Not only did they take every possible opportunity to fuck over anything fuck overable, but they also both took this opportunity to attempt to remove Jushin Liger's mask from his face to huge boos from the crowd. If there's one thing you don't do, it is try and mess with Jushin Liger, and with just that small act they probably earned more heel heat than can be found in an entire WWE or TNA pay per view.
Aside from this story element, though, this match tended towards the clusterfuck. The lucha guys were mostly here to do their dives to the outside, and at one point it seems like everyone in the entire match is just lining up to have the next turn at it. The heels, Liger and an adorably enthusiastic KUSHIDA make the most of it and stand out, but pretty much everything and everyone else gets lost in the shuffle, and when Liger finally hits Valiente with the Brainbuster and wins the match to my accompanying cheers and boos, its pretty much out of nowhere and designed to make everyone look good.
As a stand alone match, this isn't going to be worth much attention. But as an advertisement for their lucha based show the month after this event took place, its downright excellent, and they gave us more than they really had to to sell that show. So I guess ultimately we came out ahead on this one. Who knows? I'm not going to be the one to tell Jushin Liger we didn't.
70 out of 100
Defrost: Okada and YOSHI-HASHI are young wrestlers who were sent on foreign excursions as New Japan is wont to do. Okada, who is seen as the one with the most upside of anyone in New Japan even ahead of Tetsuya Naito, was sent to TNA where they did dick all with him. As they are wont to do. Then again since it is TNA he was probably better off. YOSHI-HASHI was sent to CMLL and got a pretty big push as a heel which annoyed many CMLL fans.
Cewsh: As opposed to Okada's big push as a heel upon his return to NJPW which annoyed just about evey mammal standing upright at this point in evolution.
Look, i'll be clear with you. This match was not good. In fact it was very, very much not good. Not only was it basically a match between a new re debut with no momentum and a jobber. But what might have been a squash match went right ahead and lasted 10 solid minutes. Add that to the fact that neither of these guys is never in the goddamn ballpark of being good wrestlers and you have a recipe for disaster. But let's look deeper than just this match, which as I told you blows most righteously, and allow me to point out that from our comfy spot in the future times we happen to knows that about 1 month after this show, young Okada here is going to win the IWGP World Championship. Now wrap your head around that for a second. Imagine if, say, Ted Dibiase wrestled Primo at Wrestlemania. That'd be an odd match to be on the card, but you'd accept it. Then imagine him beating CM Punk clean for the World title 1 month later.
Yeah, welcome to the disaster.
With nothing here recommending that decision, they went ahead with it anyway. Which just goes to show you that if management wants you over, they are perfectly willing to just flat out tell people you'e over contrary to evidence proving otherwise. And that can't sit easy with me, because if people are allowed to have huge pushes after matched like THIS one, then something is out of whack.
51 out of 100
Defrost: Very weird match. You'd expect Okada to basically win in a squash given what they think of him and the post main event angle. Instead he sells most of the match then hits a couple of random moves for the win. Not good at all as a match or booking wise here.
Defrost: Masakatsu Funaki returns to New Japan after a two decade long absence. In 1989 he left when UWF splintered off of New Japan after Akira Maeda was fired for purposefully breaking the eye socket of Riki Choshu. He would later go on to form Pancrase, a shoot fighting organization, with Minoru Suzuki. He was a big draw outside of New Japan and pro wrestling for years and in the last few years came back to wrestling after a long hiatus to join All Japan. This is an All Japan vs. New Japan match.
Cewsh: This is sort of a match in two parts. The first part contains everything except the last 30 seconds of the match. The first part is also incredibly dull, as while Nagata and Funaki are both over with the crowd and clearly dynamic wrestlers still, their partner add virtually nothing to the proceedings here. At least that remains the case until the aforementioned last 30 seconds when Wataru Inoue decides to be a hero and slaps Funaki in the face a bunch of times before charging him at full speed. Now there are a few possible ways that that kind of action could go. Inoue could charge in, deliver a devastating move and be a hero. Inoue could charge in, duck Funaki's counter and then deliver a devastating move and then be the hero. Oooooor, Inoue could charge in like mad and get his head kicked into the 10th row. Let's see which one he went with.
Ooh, unfortunately Inoue went for what was behind door number 3, an all expenses paid trip to the nearest hospital and dent removal specialist. Actually, let's free frame this bad boy for a second.
You could almost imagine that a split second before this he was saying to himself "Okay buddy, if he kicks, and its looks like he's kicking, you're going to want to duck. Right buddy? ...buddy?" But almost as an afterthought Funaki goes ahead and bothers to win the match at this point and then promptly mocks and shoves Nagata, causing a pull apart brawl that Inoue would have loved to have gotten in on if he could only remember what arms were for.
This issue between Funaki and Nagata isn't over by a long shot, and Funaki certainly fired an important blow in the war on this night. Inoue's plastic surgeon will attest to that. But unfortunately the match that contained it just didn't live up to the aftermath.
68 out of 100
Defrost: The match had nothing to it. The story of this is the post match angle with Nagata and Funaki. Funaki is vicious in his post match attack of Nagata and then they get pulled apart before anything comes of it. So this issue is obviously not over.
Defrost: The Complete Players, Tanaka, Yujiro, Jado, and Gedo, had been teaming up to mess with MVP. MVP lost the IWGP Intercontinental Championship to Tanaka and the rematch due to copious amounts of interference from the other three. So he decided to call in some help from America. That help turned out to be Shelton Benjamin. That brings us to this match.
Cewsh: There are two types of gaijin (foreign wrestlers) that the Japanese people generally embrace. There are the enormous and intimidating monsters like Vader, Stan Hansen and Dr. Death, and then there are the super athletic guys with star presence like Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio or Chris Jericho. Unfortunately for MVP, he isn't either of those things, but he's carved a name for himself and in order to fight off the bastards known as the Complete Players he's called in someone who belongs definitively in the second category of embraces gaijin, Shelton Benjamin.
Benjamin doesn't disappoint in the match either, as he shows off his unique athleticism incredibly well and just all around looks like a much more polished product than he ever did in WWE. MVP, for his part, focusing on bringing hell to the people who stole his title, and this match hardly takes any time at all before Takahashi is the victim of MVP's crossface, to earn him some semblance of revenge.
This match is a midcard feud blow off (or at least a partial blow off) and as such it doesn't get a lot of ballyhooing or time and it really doesn't need them. Everyone plays their role here very well, Shelton impresses on what is sure to be the first of many trips to Japan for him, and all is well with the world. The end.
73 out of 100
Defrost: I liked this match. This was fun. Shelton looked really good, and I would not be surprised if he earned himself at least a part time gig here. MVP has been working really hard and seems to really like being in New Japan which is cool since there are a lot of guys outside of Giant Bernard and to a lesser degree Kurt Angle who do not act like that. Say Jeff Hardy for one. The evil heels are turned aside. Jado and Gedo get their comeuppance. The babyfaces win. Smart stuff good stuff thumbs up.
Defrost: 564 days. That is the amount of time Bad Intentions, Giant Bernard and Karl Anderson, had held the IWGP Tag Team Championship going into this event. They are the longest reigning most successful IWGP Tag Team Champions of all time. In that time they also captured the GHC Tag Team Titles of Pro Wrestling NOAH, a match that was a part of a previous Cewsh Review, but they still did not win the Tokyo Sports Award for Tag Team of the Year. This has caused Bad Intentions to be very angry as evidence by their entrance where the destroyed giant versions of Tokyo Sports that were on the big screens.
Their opponents are another team that at one time was the longest reigning tag team champions the legendary team of TenKoji, Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima. In the early days of the 2000s they were the top tag team in Japan perhaps the entire world. They held these titles multiple times in the past and have won the Tokyo Sports Award for Tag Team of the Year. Kojima jumped to All Japan in 2002 breaking the tag team up. They have since feuded and reunited and this is their attempt to regain the titles they have held in the past.
Cewsh: Is there any wrestling story more simple to understand and easy to enjoy than this one?
You take two young and intimidating wrestlers and have them just run roughshod over everyone. Every tag team in your company, every tag team in your rival's company, every tag team EVERYWHERE. You have them do this for a stupidly long period of time so that they look like shit kickers to end all shit kickers, and then you create a dream time to stand in their way. If the youngsters beat the dream team then they will be tag team legends on par with the greats. If the dream team wins then they have saved their promotion from this scourge and also have acted as heroes on behalf of the fans. In this situation you can slot the players right into that easily, with the dominant Bad Intentions taking on the newly reunited super team of Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan. And they fit those roles so well that they may as well have invented them.
See, the reuniting of TenKoji is not just a big damn deal because a legendary tag team of main eventers and former World champions has reunited. TenKoji actually represent what might well be the ONLY chance for anybody to really ever beat Bad Intentions. The Japanese tag team scene isn't exactly awash with great teams, and those few that there are have been bowled over like pins by the runaway bowling ball that is Giant Bernard. So if this united super team can't get the job done, the belief was that they might just hold the titles until they are too old to defend them without getting walkers involved. TenKoji has just one chance to stop the rampaging destruction of these American invaders. Just one.
With that as the build up, you'd expect this match to be epic and great and that is exactly what it is. Karl Anderson and Giant Bernard aren't really the smoothest or most fun to watch wrestlers on the roster, but here they play great heels that just openly underestimate and antagonize the legends that they're in the ring with, and look like monsters for the beating they manage to put on two of the biggest names in recent Japanese wrestling history. But in the end we all knew that TenKoji was taking this one, and with some crowd pleasing finishers they bring to an end one of the most impressively long titles reigns of modern wrestling and crown themselves as the kings once again after all of these years. It was a feel good moment, and one that the crowd really just couldn't get enough of.
There's something to be said for simplicity. Namely that thing to be said is that it is an incredibly useful tool. Here, these four tell a story a child could understand, but that even an elderly person could derive meaning from. And in doing so they have a very good match. It doesn't work every time, but here it most assuredly did.
85 out of 100
Cewsh’s Seal of Approval
Defrost: Good match. The action goes back and forth and the finishing stretch is put together really well. It plays off the dominance of Bad Intentions and the fact that the crowd is solidly behind TenKoji. That is actually something of interest with Bad Intentions. They are really flexible when it comes to the heel/face dynamic depending on opponent. Here they are heels. Their previous defense against Minoru Suzuki and Lance Archer saw them as faces. This is probably the best match on the card to this point. Check it out.
Defrost: For the 37th year in a row we get these two. At Wrestle Kingdom III it was Goto teaming with Shinsuke Nakamura to take on Sugiura and the late great Mitsuharu Misawa. At Wrestle Kingdom IV Sugiura was successful in his defense of the GHC Title against Goto. Then last year was Goto and Okada against Sugiura and Yoshihiro Takayama. Sugiura has gotten the better of those at a rate of 2-1. That plus Goto's lack of recent success makes this match a must win for him beyond the obvious NJPW vs NOAH bragging rights.
The word hai is Japanese for yes. It was pointed out to me that hai is said many times during this match on commentary. After it was pointed out to me I found it very distracting.
This is a slow starting match. One the suplexes start flying this picks up. Sugiura is really laying into Goto. Running boots to the face. Suplexes into the corner. Beating him down with forearms. However, Goto can't lose this match. He has lost ground to younger wrestlers in the company such as Tetsuo Naito. He cannot lose again to an invader. He needs this win. So as Sugiura punts him in the face or Dragon Suplexes him Goto does not stay down. Goto makes his comeback with a headbutt, the move that started his highest profile feud of 2011. Then he rains an onslaught of vicious moves on Sugiura until he gets a much needed victory. This was a good match. Told a story. Goto looked good.
Cewsh: It probably wouldn't be too much of an exaggeration to suggest that I have seen these two men wrestle each other more than I have seen cats macros on the internet. Which is to say that I must have seen these men wrestle to infinity because I have seen an amazing number of cat macros.
So all I can really say about this match before the weariness takes me, is that it was almost certainly the best match that these two have had together. In fact, Goto himself has come an incredibly long way as a performer since his soujorn to Mexico and now has the look, the skills and the finisher to finally make it to the top if they ever develop enough faith in him to give him the chance again.
As for Sugiura, i'm really not sure where he goes from here. He isn't going to sniff the title in his company after holding it for 2 years straight not long ago, and NOAH really has no midcard to speak of, so he'll sort of be stuck in the same kind of limbo Goto is until the next time they need to roll him out.
Come to think of it, that sounds like we can probably pencil in this match again for next year. Let's make it a date.
78 out of 100
Defrost: This here is an old fashioned grudge match. Makabe was Takayama's partner many a moon ago. Recently Takayama returned to New Japan and it looked like he was there to help his fallen friend. Instead Takayama suplexed him right on his head. This leads us to this match.
Cewsh: People hit each other a lot in this match.
75 out of 100
Defrost: Dear God is Takayama looking melty. Takayama throws a dropkick in this match forcing me to love it no matter what surrounded it. Basically this is a pretty short match where they spend most of their time just beating the shit out of each other. Really all there is to it. Enjoyable little thing.
Cewsh: Now THIS is my shit right here.
Now NOAH and New Japan have done crossover matches matches before, and indeed, they just did one like 2 matches ago on this card. But generally speaking they don't tend to lead to much more than one off dream matches, or small feuds later on. As such, you tend to get guys from one company who are way higher or the curve than guys from the other. The reason I mention this is because that is absolutely not at all the fucking case here. Naomichi Marufuji is, aside from being my favorite wrestler in the world, one of the greatest junior heavyweight wrestlers of all time, a huge star in NOAH where he was and remains the only Junior to ever win the World Championship, and the fucking Vice President of NOAH after the death of Misawa. Shiozaki, for his part, is only their current champion and the man Misawa earmarked to replace him. On the other side, there is Toru Yano, who is easily the weak link here but has been having an incredible run over the past year, and Shinsuke Nakamura, who may be the most legitimate bad ass in all of Japanese wrestling and is firmly the Randy Orton to Tanahashi's John Cena. As such, this match is a big time one with major ramifications.
Funnily enough, though, you'd never guess that from seeing Mr. Nakamura show up though, because as everyone makes their entrances, he comes out last and slowly swaggers his way down to ring giving so few fucks that he must being saving up for retirement.
This contrasts rather significantly with Marufuji, who makes his entrance like the lost Kamen Rider in his first appearance in a New Japan ring since he got injured at the end of what might have been the best run of any junior heavyweight in wrestling history a few years ago.
As the match gets started, its pretty clear that while Yano is firing up for some evildoing, Nakamura considers this whole thing beneath him, and can barely be bothered to even kick the asses of the men foolish enough to test him. When Marufuji steps into the ring, he openly scoffs at a junior daring to pick a fight with him. Unfortunately for Nakamura, Marufuji is no usual junior, and in the process of displaying this he effortlessly makes Nakamura look like the biggest scrub on Earth.
Nakamura doesn't take too kindly to this, and for the rest of the match, sparks fly between the two whenever they so much as look at each other, and suddenly this jumps up to the tippy top of my list of dream matches as it becomes incredibly obvious that these two have an off the charts chemistry together from even their little interaction. Unfortunately it IS just a little interaction, because the majority of this match takes place between Go Shiozaki and Toru Yano, which might at other times have been a perfectly plesant thing to watch, but when it is the only thing standing in the way of Nakamura and Marufuji tearing the house down, it might as well be a Jackie Gayda match for all it matters. Everybody does their thing for awhile, and then Shiozaki finally ends the singles match he was having with Yano. But all is not done, as Nakamura continues mocking and bullying Marufuji after the match ends and openly dismisses him as hardly a threat at all.
Do you know what that means? NAKAMURA/MARUFUJI! Its happening! SQUEEEE!
Oh right the match. Yes, it was good. Half of it was electric, and the other half was competent. It just a matter of enjoying the good half while it lasts.
79 out of 100
Defrost: Shinsuke does not give a shit, and he is amazing for it. Everyone on this show has fucked up ears. This match is sorta weird. The opening segment with Marufuji and Nakamura is good, but then Yano comes in. Yano is a heel. As heel as can be. However, he is on a NJPW show defending NJPW. That makes for a very odd dynamic. He beats on Marufuji for a while using nefarious tactics for instance and the crowd barely reacts because there is a disconnect there. I do like that Yano has spent the entire year mocking RVD. In general this match is much better when Marufuji and Nakamura are in there. Which is good since that is the program they seem to be going with going forward with Nakamura saying because Marufuji is a Junior Heavyweight he sees no need to ever wrestle him again. That guarantees they will wrestle again.
Cewsh: Here we go. Perhaps the most charismatic wrestler in Japanese wrestling history against the head of the new generation trying to make their name. People have whispered for long now that Naito reminded them of a young Mutoh as Naito made his way to the top and now at last the firey eye entusiast gets his chance to prove himself against an absolute legend on the biggest stage possible. This is a once in a generation kind of match, and perhaps a prelude to the kind of passing the torch moment that made Tanhashi what he is today. This is genius vs. genius. This is the match so many of us tuned in to see.
What a let down.
I hate to just outright dimiss a match as a letdown without prefacing it with all sorts of things about what actually happens in the match or that its only my way of looking at it, but frankly I can't see any possible way that this match could be seen by anyone as anything short of the borefest to end all borefests. We're talking about two incredibly charismatic wrestlers, who choose to spend an entire match on the mat doing virtually nothing. It isn't just weird or dull, it almost flat out embarassing, and the strange thing is that when the time comes for Mutoh to be dynamic and athletic he is, though fuck knows how at his age. Its Naito who seems to shrink into the background and who fails to take advantage of any opportunity to shine, and as a result, its Naito who walks away having been damamged by this match in a way we'll only know for sure when we're looking back on it later.
On the plus side, though, after the match Mutoh goes to raise Naito's hand as a sign of respect, and Naito not only blows him off, but blows the legend off in a spectacularly dickish way.
Maybe this will lead to some interesting for Naito, and I hope that is does. Because if he has to drag the albatross of this disappointment around his neck for the rest of his career, he'll never survive it.
70 out of 100.
Defrost: The legendary Keiji Mutoh takes on a young phenom who many compare to him. Hence the title of the match. The idea of which can also be seen in Mutoh's matches with Tanahashi. Hopefully this match will be better than their first match.
A lot of dead time early in this match. Mutoh is really starting to show his age. He is almost 50 years old. Problem is that I am not sure I can see him doing the grumpy old man gimmick of say Tenryu that kept Tenryu going strong into his 50s. This is boring. Longest figure four in the history of Earth during this match. So it seems Naito is much tougher than Nobuhiko Takada. I mean he gave up pretty quick to the figure four and Naito was in one for 45 minutes and is jumping all over the place. If it weren't for Okada and YOSHI-HASHI this would be the worst match on the show. Naito is snakebit at the Tokyo Dome.
Defrost: The story here is simple. Hiroshi Tanahashi is in the midst of the greatest World Title run in any organization since Kenta Kobashi lost the GHC Heavyweight title in March of 2005. This match if he wins would break the record for all time successful IWGP Heavyweight title defenses with 11. His opponent is a complete prick. This is the story.
Cewsh: Hiroshi Tanahashi may well be the greatest big match wrestler of this generation. There are a few others who may give him a run for his money like John Cena and Kurt Angle, but ultimately if you just look at the performences that Tanahashi produces when put in these incredibly huge main events, he never disappoints. Ever. The man is virtually tailor made for just that very thing, as he overflows with charisma and likeability, while at the same time having a champion's presence like nobody I can think of since the Ring of Honor heyday of Samoa Joe. Here, Tanahashi brings every scrap of that against Minoru Suzuki, who is a man for whom words like "dickhead" and "assface" and "beaverjesus" have long since ceased to have any meaning. Believe me when I tell you that in all of my years and years of wrestling watching and review, there has never been any human being working anywhere who was even in the same league as Minoru Suzuki when it came to being an asshole heel. He's mocking, he's ridiculous looking, he takes every conceivable opportunity to rub everything in your face and his trash talking is backed up by a real life mixed martial arts background and bad attitude that has become legendary. As such, he has become a brickdong for the ages, to the extent where he can't even let Tanahashi make his entrance without openly mocking him to the camera.
So with that, these two clash in spectacular fashion, and its exactly what you would expect from these two. Suzuki brutalizes Tanhashi with strikes and submissions while looking for his devastating Gotch Style Piledriver, while Tanahashi puts up with roughly 0% of his bullshit and flies around the ring wrecking havoc. At various times they brawl on the ramp and go all over the place trying to get the advantage, and while this kind of stuff is far out of Tanhashi's comfort zone, the man with the abs of gold came into this match with the express purpose of not getting bullied around, and you can see his determination to show this bully up, even after Suzuki bashes him in the mouth hard enough to give the champion a mouth full of blood.
After several minutes of beating glaore, Suzuki starts focusing in on trying to hit the piledriver and end things. Tanahashi keeps coming up with counter after counter and you can see the emotional Suzuki just getting pissed off more and more by the second as he tries to put the plucky champion away. Again he tries, and this time he finally hoists the exhausted and battered champion up for it and brings him crashing down head first.
Tanhashi rolls away limp, but somehow manages to kick out. Suzuki spends about 5 minutes freaking out that someone kicked out of his finish, and that turns out to be a huuuuuge mistake. Tanhashi recovers and comes firing back with everything in his arsenal, battering the stunned Suzuki who has no answer for the onslaught until finally Tanhashi beats the challenger to the ground on his stomach. As Suzuki tries painfully to claw his way to the ropes, Tanhashi climbs the turnbuckle for the High Fly Flow. Which one last burst of strength Suzuki tries to move out of the way and grab ahold of something, but he's hurt too badly. The damage is too great. Tanhashi comes crashing down on him with full velocity, and before he can even figure out where he is, Tanhashi climbs up one more time.
High. Fly. Flow. And just like that, the king retains his throne.
Now this certainly isn't the best Tanhashi match i've ever seen. He and Suzuki were a bit of an odd matchup and they had to find ways to work around that. But the drama they built with their incredibly strong and well defined characters carried through in the end, and the ending was damn emotional, with a straining Suzuki trying desperately to escape and a furious Tanhashi screaming at him with blood cake on his face before ending it. To put it simply, this was what the main event of the biggest show of the year should look and feel like. And anyone doing anything less is just a shadow in comparison.
Long live the king. At least until Okada ruins it.
89 out of 100
Cewsh’s Seal of Approval
Defrost: This is a good match. Not the best Tanahashi title defense of this run, a wildly unfair standard at the point, but more than good enough to warrant a recommendation. It is the best match on the show. It is also my match of the year or 2012 so far. Although in full disclosure this is the only wrestling show I have watched in 2012.
Minoru Suzuki was really good in this. Including the best dropkick I have ever seen as well as a wicked counter to the dragon screw. It is impossible for Tanahashi to not be great. Suzuki’s finish is the Gotch style Piledriver. He has put down a lot of people with that move. In a great touch he does Tanahashi's pose and then piledrives him which only gets 2. Until this match I had not realized that a routine spot in both men's matches is an intense slap fight. They work this like it is a big match. Tanahashi is great at being world champ and putting on championship matches. That is why I would say some stuff here like ramp fighting and whatnot designed to make it seem bigger happened since it was a bigger show. That does not mean anything good or bad per se. This is a good match that you should watch.
Cewsh: I really enjoyed this show. In fairness, though, I pretty much knew going into it that I would. Wrestle Kingdom is unique in the world of Bound For Glories, Wrestlemanias and the like because while they tend to overpack the cards and some of the matches always wind up being stinkers, you are virtually guaranteed every single year to have a fantastic main event that completely sends you home satisfied with the show. I can't overstate how important this can be for a show, and how often we watch shows that appear to have no concept of this. Looking at you, TNA. But once again, Tanahashi puts on a show, and the undercard of incredibly fun and watchable matches does this show wonders as well. Coming out of it, it forces you to contemplate the future with Okada in the main event, and the possibility of Marufuji/Nakamura, and as mad as the first one makes me, it is completely made up for by the second. So as New Japan sails into a new year under new management with a new champion we're going to wish them the best of luck. And if nothing else, we'll be right back here next year to see what the future holds.
Defrost: In conclusion this was a good show. Wrestle Kingdom suffers the Wrestlemania syndrome in many ways. There is a need to get so much stuff on the show that match quality is lowered for instance so compared to most of New Japan's PPVs in 2011 this show was not high end, but for what it was compared to other recent Tokyo Dome shows I'd only put Wrestle Kingdom III ahead of it. Watch the show if you can find it.
Well that’ll do it for us this time boys and girls. We hope you enjoyed this epic collision of wit and dudes running into each other that we call Cewsh Reviews, and especially hope that you enjoyed this foray into the wonderful world of Puro. Next week we’re staring down the barrel of the Wrestlemania gun as we tackle WWE Elimination Chamber 2012. Who will escape the chambers and make their way to a featured spot on the biggest show of the year? What will happen with John Cena and his endless baggage going into the biggest show of his career? What the shit is Santino doing here? Only one way to find out. So until then, remember to keep reading and be good to one another.
Happy trails, knights of the Wrestle Kingdom!