Apologies for how late this review is – I spent last week building flat pack furniture for my daughter’s room, felt behind on WWE Super Show-Down due to exhaustion and struggled to catch up with this show as a result!
I didn’t want to miss out on this show as I really enjoyed Fighting Spirit Unleashed. The road to Wrestle Kingdom is under way and it’s going to be a fun journey….
El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru (C) vs Jushin Thunder Liger and Tiger Mask IV (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles)
I like the tag team of Desperado and Kanemaru; the Suzuki-gun members are quite creative in how and when they cheat, which made their series with Roppongi 3K earlier in the year a highlight of the undercard. I enjoyed this match too, a chaotic affair with the veterans Liger and Tiger Mask taking the fight to the champions before losing to cheating. A really fun opener and a nice change from the competent but meaningless multi man tags New Japan usually start the show with. I’m torn between a 3/5 or a 3.5/5, but I’m going to go with 3.5/5 as this match felt like it mattered and whet my appetite for the rest of the show.
Juice Robinson and Toa Henare vs Great Bash Heel
It’s good to see Honma back in action after his neck injury, but this match didn’t hold my interest. I think it’s because it felt like filler, a placeholder while Juice’s regular partner David Finlay is away. I like Toa Henare, but you know if he’s in a match he’s usually the one getting pinned, making the outcome of this match predictable. Plus, this match felt like a waste of Juice Robinson, whose been featuring more prominently over the past year and is above making up numbers in meaningless tag matches. A 2.5/5 rating for an average match with no implications going forward.
The Young Bucks, Hangman Page and Chase Owens vs Bad Luck Fale, The Guerrillas of Destiny and Taiji Ishimori
I wasn’t looking forward to the spree of multi-man tags coming up on the show, but this match was entertaining enough. Plenty of chaos and more of Matt Jackson’s great selling of his back made this one fly by pretty quickly. 3/5 for a fun match.
Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii and Will Ospreay vs Minoru Suzuki, Taichi and Takashi Iizuka
This match was the usual multi-man tag match, enhanced by the beginning of Will Ospreay’s move to the heavyweight division. It had been rumoured for a while, but this match was the coming out party – Ospreay matched then pinned NEVER Openweight Champion Taichi with a Storm Breaker to put himself in the picture for a NEVER Openweight Title shot. It was great seeing Ospreay get a shock pinfall over a heavyweight, but the icing on the cake for me was Goto and Ishii’s reaction – it really made Ospreay’s victory seem like a big deal. I’ll go 3/5 again for this one – the action was pretty good too…Taichi and Ospreay have good chemistry together and judging by their match at Strong Style Evolved UK Night 2, their upcoming title match should be superb.
Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano and Roppongi 3K vs Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, Bushi and ???
I thought this was the weakest of the three midshow faction tag matches, a fairly short and routine win for Naito’s LIJ. The main selling point of this match was the debut of Shingo Takagi as a member of Los Ingobernables de Japon. Th ex-Dragon Gate star didn’t do much but he did win the match with the Last Falconry…which looks pretty painful and makes me glad that I’m not a wrestler. Other than that, I though this was a routine 2.5/5 match notable only for Shingo’s debut.
Evil vs Zack Sabre Jr.
This was an angle not a match, but a pretty good one at that. Basically, AWOL IWGP Intercontinental champion Chris Jericho disguised himself as a druid for Evil’s entrance, jumped Evil and put Evil out of the match, leading to a no contest. This enraged Zack Sabre Jr, who begun to attack Evil until Naito made the save. I can’t give a rating out here but this was a great segment that set up Evil vs Jericho and Naito vs Sabre Jr at Power Struggle.
Kushida vs Marty Scurll (IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship Tournament Final)
Hmmm…you know when a match is technically very good, but you’re just not into it? That was this match for me. I thought both wrestlers worked hard and match was well executed but for some reason I wasn’t too drawn into the action. Maybe it was the lack of an issue between the two men, maybe it’s because I had a feeling Kushida was going to win, so there was no real surprise when he won. I give this match 3.5/5, but if you saw it and disagree with that, I trust your judgement.
Hiroshi Tanahashi (holder) vs Jay White (IWGP Heavyweight Title Match Contract)
Much like the previous match, I wasn’t really into this contest though this match wasn’t up to the standard of Kushida vs Scrull. After winning a so-so match, Tanahashi moved to the background as the big angle of the show happened, with Jay White, Gedo and Jado joining Fale’s Bullet Club after beating down Okada again. I liked the angle, I thought that the Bullet Club OG;s needed more starpower and bodies, so this was a welcome move. 2.5/5 for the match though, it was a fairly uneventful match with little sticking out.
Kenny Omega (C) vs Kota Ibushi vs Cody (IWGP Heavyweight Title)
I’d heard some whispering online about this match not being right or a cop out, but I have to say that, some odd storytelling aside (i..e Omega letting Ibushi pin Cody early on) I really enjoyed this match. I’m not a fan of three way matches really, I find they are really convoluted, with lots of obvious sequences designed to take one wrestler out of the match so the others can rest. This match was guilty of that, but it involved some great athleticism and I found myself really getting into the match as it went on. For effort, risk taking and crisp action, I think this match deserves 4/5. That said, I want them to start building some real challengers to Omega’s title – the Elite/BC OG split hasn’t created any and the promised match with Ibushi can’t be held off forever.
Overall – I thought this was one of the weaker New Japan shows, more consistent in the lower card, but missing the great main matches that make New Japan shows shine. The average rating for King of Pro Wrestling was 3.06/5.00, down from New Japan’s usual rating of around 3.30 – 3.50. I liked this show, but I’d say only the main event is must see.