Believing himself to be the only man who can turn New Japan Pro Wrestling into a global brand, Kenny Omega challenges Kazuchika Okada for his IWGP World Heavyweight Championship at the Tokyo Dome…
Tiger the Dark
This match was a tie-in with an animated television series in Japan, the characters brought to life with wrestlers wearing masks, etc. Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino, the english commentary team for the announce, spent a lot of time discussing the crossover marketing event.
Tiger the Dark hit a nice dive over the top rope, taking out Tigermask W at ringside. The tables were soon turned once they were back in the ring, Tigermask W hitting a sweet dropkick which knocked Tiger the Dark clean out of the ring, following it up with a top rope springboard moonsault to the outside. They were some nice big spots for the crowd for the opening match.
I’m a fan of the tombstone being used as a devastating finishing move, so seeing Tigermask W kick out at the two count after being on the receiving end of one wasn’t so great. Tigermask W got the win soon after with a tiger bomb out of nowhere.
Steady match to open, but wasn’t worked at a particularly quick pace, or indeed seemingly designed to really get the crowd awake for the show. Given the two men under the masks, it maybe could have been more.
The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) (C)
Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Beretta)
(IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship)
The match started with trash talking from the Young Bucks, leading to hard punches from Romero and Beretta to silence them. Taking bit of a beating, Matt and Nick Jackson told their opponents to screw themselves, and made their way back up the ramp. This was all a ruse to lure Beretta and Romero out, as they quickly hit them with super kicks and ran back into the ring, hoping to win by count out – mission failed at the count of 19.
Beretta got worked over a lot after that, and really needed to make a tag. Unfortunately for him, his partner was knocked to ringside with another super kick. Beretta almost ate one at ringside himself, but was able to duck at the last second, one of the people working at ringside instead getting wiped out by the boot of one of the tag team champions.
When the tag did get made, there was a nice tease when Romero kept running from corner to corner trying to hit the double clothesline, the Young Bucks ducking each time. When he did eventually floor them both with it, it looked great and got a nice pop from the audience.
There was a disgustingly brutal spot where Beretta went for the running flip to the outside, only for his opponents to move out of the way. He crashed straight onto the ground, well past the area padded with mats, hitting with his back first. Romero was on his own after that, and ate a double super kick and running knee, but still kicked out. There was a nice spot when the Young Bucks hit a 450 splash on him as he was held hanging out from the second rope. He kicked out again.
As the Young Bucks were about to put Romero away once and for all, he made the roll up pin attempt and, before it could be broken up, Beretta got involved to ensure that Romero got the three count that crowned them both the new IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions.
This is the match that should’ve opened the show. The Young Bucks were very impressive throughout, to the point that you almost felt as if it was the undeserving team that won. I absolutely hate the super kick being spammed, but the days of HBK’s singular brutal boot to the head are long gone, I suppose. It did seem likely that Romero and Beretta were winning, the more Romero continued to kick out of everything thrown at him.
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Hangman Page and Yujiro Takahashi)
vs. Chaos (Jado, Will Ospreay & Yoshi Hashi)
vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Bushi, Evil & Sanada)
vs. David Finlay, Ricochet & Satoshi Kojima (C)
(Gauntlet match for the NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship)
Bullet Club and Chaos got things going, the former choosing to start things off with a cheap attack on their opponents. They maintained early control, but things certainly swung in Chaos’ favour when Will Ospreay was tagged in. Ospreay was here, there and everywhere, and hit a stunning cartwheel-like spin into a flying backwards leap over the ropes, hitting his opponents cleanly at ringside. Ospreay is considered one of the best British wrestlers in the world, and he was showing why during this match.
Unfortunately, Ospreay’s wonderful move set wasn’t enough to keep Chaos in the match, after Bullet Club eliminated them following a successful pin on Yoshi Hash. Los Ingobernables were out next, and meant business.
Very quickly a chair was thrown into the ring, which was then opened up and placed over the head of one of the Bullet Club team members. Moments later, a second chair was swung at the first, and the impact was sickeningly effective, leading into a submission that saw Bullet Club eliminated from the match.
Finley, Ricochet, and Kojima were out last, determined to defend their belts. Ricochet in particular brought lots of energy into the match, clearly able to keep his three tiring opponents in check.
After that, there was some back and forth action, no team able to dominate. The finish came when Kojima was hit with mist whilst the referee was distracted. He kicked out at the first attempt, but Los Ingobernables took him out with a final move to ensure that they were victorious, and the new NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Champions.
I’m not a huge fan of gauntlet matches, as I find the entrances often cool down the momentum of the in-progress contest, but there was some good work throughout. Ospreay and Ricochet were the standouts, but everyone put in a shift.
Robinson was out first, with the commentary team putting over how big an opportunity this was for him. Rhodes was out next, making his New Japan Pro Wrestling debut on one of the biggest stages of them all. His lineage was a hot topic of discussion throughout the match.
Right from the start, Rhodes made it very clear that he was the villain of the piece, rejecting the offer of a handshake from Robinson. That might have motivated Robinson, who soon after found himself at ringside, but was able to catch Cody mid-air following his leap from the top of the turnbuckle, then threw him to the ground with an overhead belt-to-belly. Robinson soon got thrown into the railings, and clearly injured his knee. This would be a problem for Robinson throughout the rest of the match.
Fans chanted for Rhodes as he worked Robinson’s leg, something be made sure to bring to Kevin Kelly’s attention on commentary. A nice bit of banter followed, ending with Corino being called an “ass.” That was just one small highlight of all the verbal sparring done throughout the bout. Another was when Robinson called Rhodes a “mother fucker.”
Robinson tried to take control, but a chop block to the back of his knee ensured that his leg couldn’t be trusted throughout the rest of the match. He was unable to hit any power moves that required him on his feet, and he almost lost when Rhodes his him with a hanging DDT from the top rope. When Robinson’s leg buckled during an attempted power bomb, Rhodes hit him with the Cross Rhodes to get the win. Not exactly humble in victory, Rhodes made a big scene as he left the ring, which included taking Corino’s water and spitting it in his direction.
A good match, wrestled much more in the style you’d find in the United States or across Europe, which was a welcome change to what had been on the card already. This was a good debut for Rhodes, and fans were clearly into him due to his WWE history, but I suspect that if he keeps up this kind of heel work, he’ll make himself a hated man in NJPW soon enough.
The trash talking was superb in this match.
Kyle O’Reilly (C)
(ROH World Championship)
Cole injured O’Reilly’s shoulder very early on, which O’Reilly sold for the rest of the match. Despite the injury, he was able to hit some strong strikes, and was able to control a respectable amount of the match. Cole was the one who went closest to a win early on though, hitting a Last Shot before attempting a pin fall victory.
There was a nice spot where they went strike for strike, then delivered two big boots to each other at the same time, the third big boot then knocking both men down. It really hit home how familiar these two are with each others work.
The shoulder injury to O’Reilly limited the kind of moves he was able to complete, largely taking power moves off the table completely. He had a great opportunity to retain his title when he turned a missed kick from Cole into an ankle lock. Cole was able to get out of it, and hit four strong kicks before delivering his third Last Shot of the match. It was enough to put O’Reilly away, and made Cole the first ever three-time Ring Of Honor World Champion.
It was a decent match, although there wasn’t really anything memorable about it. Can’t fault the work of either man, though the way they used the injured shoulder was perhaps a bit too similar to what Cody Rhodes and Juice Robinson had done in the match prior to this. The finish was incredibly well worked, and there was no way O’Reilly was ever going to kick out. Both men looked competitive throughout.
Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa) (C)
Chaos (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano)
G.B.H. (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma)
(IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship)
The champions were out last, and went straight for Toru Yano, who had stolen their championship belts in the lead up to Wrestle Kingdom 11.
The match got underway soon after, with lots of swearing, hard strikes, and power moves. You really could tell that this match was a heavyweight bout.
Makabe and Honma controlled the middle of the match, and damn did their punches and chops look painful. The swearing was relentless, and Corino was in hysterics on commentary, as Kevin Kelly confirmed what people were tweeting him: this match was not PG. Seriously, the swearing was off the charts, and it added so much to the match. Genuinely felt like these guys just wanted to fight each other.
Ishii and Yano were out of the match for the longest time, which I noticed right around the time that Makabe and Honma got a near fall. When a team is out of the match for that long a period, you just know they’re going to play a big part in the finish, and that was what happened here.
Honma had the match won, after hitting a hard power bomb and then a flying head butt, but Yano and Ishii were there to break up the pinfall. Had it been a two-team contest, then Honma and Makabe would have been the new champions.
Unfortunately for them, there was a third team, and they won the match and the tag titles after the referee missed Yano hit a double low blow. A rollup followed, and the three count. New champions.
Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma were superb from start to finish. It’s a shame they didn’t get to take the straps, and it’s surprising that the Guerrillas didn’t look a little stronger in defeat. Hard hitting match though, and really enjoyable viewing.
(IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship)
Takahashi had a big fight entrance, massive balls bouncing around the arena as he made his way to the ring. Kashida wasn’t given the same opportunity to enjoy his own entrance, as Takahashi knocked him clean out of the ring when his back was turned to him.
The dirty play didn’t give Takahashi the control he was after, with Kushida unloading on him as a result. Takahashi’s time came when he delivered an incredible sunset bomb to Kushida, who hit the mats at ringside hard. He was allowed to continue, but Takahashi had control from that point, and soon after hit a lovely jumping senton from the top turnbuckle. This was followed by a knee drop from the top rope, once they’d returned to the ring. Takahashi was looking superb at this point.
Kushida was able to to regain control during a beautiful sequence where he caught Takahashi mid-air with an armbar. He had it locked tight, and risked disqualification when he continued to ignore the referee’s request that he break the hold. Looking pissed off, he dragged Takahashi back into the ring, worked the arm more and locked up into yet another submission hold. It looked incredibly painful, and the crowd were louder than they’d been all night so far. There was a moment when it seemed like Takahashi could tap out, but instead he broke free. Every time he could though, Kushida went back to the arm. Both men sold it so well.
The match came to a close when Takahashi brought Kushida down on his head from the top rope, then ran him straight into the turnbuckle on his shoulder, before finishing him off to win the pinfall. Hiromu Takahashi becomes the new IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion.
There were a few botches early on, but they hid them well, and you can almost put it down to nerves. The longer the match went on, and the more relaxed both men became, the greater the contest became. Everything from that first armbar at ringside was brilliant, and there were countless moments prior to that which were superb. Great match.
Katsuyori Shibata (c)
(NEVER Openweight Championship)
The crowd were hot from the start, and it was a steady opening with Shibata in control. It was a much slower, technical-based opening to what we’d seen on the card so far. It was also a very physical encounter right from the start.
When Goto eventually got control, his kicks had no impact, and instead motivated and psyched Shibata up to take control of his opponent again. Goto was eventually able to ground Shibata, following a nice sequence where they took turns running off the ropes at each other to deliver strikes and kicks.
Goto found himself caught in a standing rear choke, but was able to break free, only to get pulled into a second rear choke very soon after. Just as he was about to reach the rope for the break, Shibata pulled his arm away, and dragged him backwards to the mat. Goto had nowhere to go, and was held in the choke for a very long time before he was able to get his foot to the bottom rope to force the break.
Shibata risked a disqualification when he shoved the referee, but thankfully the match was allowed to continue. Goto got a near fall, and suddenly Shibata looked rattled for the first time, especially now that the crowd were very vocal in their support of Goto.
It turned into a brutal head butts, punches and kicks brawl in the middle of the ring, both men on their feet. Goto came out on top from this physical beating of both men, and turned it into a GTR. He got the three count, and became the new NEVER Openweight Champion.
The match definitely worked at a slower pace to the rest of the card, but it was damn physical, and only seemed to get tougher and tougher the longer it went on. There was a good story being told thoughout, with no one believing Goto could win it, but the challenger came out on top, and left Wrestle Kingdom 11 as a champion, and having delivered one of the best matches of the night.
Tetsuya Naito (C)
(IWGP Intercontinental Championship)
There was a little back and forth at the opening, before Naito was able to take control of the match. Nice spot where he swung Tanahashi’s foot into the hands of the surprised referee, then floored Tanahashi. The referee didn’t appear too happy that he’d helped take part…
When it was Tanahashi’s turn to guide proceedings, Naito spat in his face. Tanahashi wasn’t happy, and took down the reigning champion. Whilst out on the edge of the ring, Tanahashi delivered a lovely sling blade, Naito hitting the ring hard, and falling to ringside. Tanahashi followed up with an incredible flying cross body from the turnbuckle to Naito on the outside, with Naito’s head looking like it had hit the hard floor. He seemed to be legitimately old cold for a few moments.
Tanahashi brought it back into the ring, but that proved to be a mistake when Naito was able to hit the ropes to cause Tanahashi to fall onto his delicates whilst he was climbing to the top of the turnbuckle. Naito went back to working on Tanahashi’s knees, as the commentary team sold the damage being done through the hard hits and submission holds.
As the match went on, both men ended up carrying knee injuries that were slowing them down. Tanahashi had a chance to put it away, but missed with a leap off the turnbuckle. Naito was soon able to hit his finisher, but Tanahashi kicked out at the last millisecond. It was such a close call. Naito delivered the same move again, and this time it was enough. Naito retains.
This was a very good match, and has had a lot of great feedback from those in attendance and those watching at home. Some of the work here was stiff as hell, and Naito genuinely looked concussed when his head hit the ground in the first half of the match. Both men brought it, and it was a worthy co-main event.
Kazuchika Okada (C)
(IWGP World Heavyweight Championship)
As the main event, it was only right that the big entrances were pulled out for both competitors. Omega had a great little Terminator sequence, which many viewers considered a dig at Triple H given his Wrestlemania 31 entrance, whilst Okada had a genuine champions entrance that made him come off as the big player.
It was a slowly worked opening, with Omega in control. Okada sped things up a little as he grappled for control, which worked, and Omega was suddenly on the back foot. He ended up at ringside, backed up by The Young Bucks, and tried to lure Okada out to chase him back into the ring. It worked, but once they were both in the ring, Okada grounded him with a big hard boot.
It went back to ringside, with Okada hanging Omega off the railings, before dropping him with a DDT. Omega’s head hit the ground first, and it looked painful. Okada went to get a table out, but was unable to set it up before Omega attacked him. The fight stayed at ringside, before Okada hit an absolutely stunning running cross body over the railings and onto Omega. Omega was down, and Okada was comfortably in control.
When the momentum shifted back in Omega’s favour, he hit a wonderful flip over the top rope to the outside, hitting Okada cleanly. It was caught perfectly by the cameras. Omega took Okada back into the ring and, with the champions back turned, Omega came off the top turnbuckle with a missile drop kick right to the back of Okada’s head. It connected well, and must have hurt.
Omega was in control, and when Okada was eventually on the wrong side of the railings at ringside, Omega went up for a springboard moonsault from the ring, that cleared the damn railings and connected with Okada. The crowd went nuts, and so did I. The god damn range on that was incredible.
The match, which had started at a much slower pace, was now moving incredibly fast and both men had landed some highlight reel moments. Another one came for Omega when, as Okada tried to get back in the ring from the springboard moonsault, Omaga laid the table across the grounded Okada and delivered a running stomp from the outside of the ring. The move left holes in the table, and probably broke a few of Okada’s ribs! It seemed all over, and Omega clearly thought so too as he hit a power bomb to finish things off. Okada kicked out, and kicked out of a second.
He wasn’t finished yet, but Okada was being dominated by Omega. The Young Bucks set up the table at ringside, but Omega couldn’t put Okada through it, as the champion made a comeback with hard punches and kicks. Both men tried to put the other through the table, but no such luck, so the action returned to the ring. Omega ran the ropes, and as he came back at his opponent, Okada used his momentum to throw him over his head and over the ropes, straight through the table at ringside. The height Omega reached was insane, as was the fact he still managed to hit the whole table clean. Omega looked dead at ringside.
Okada was in control now, and the crowd were louder than they’d been all night. He hit a devastating missile dropkick to Omega, and the way the challengers body reacted to the impact was like watching a man be hit by a truck. Somehow, Omega kicked out of a pin attempt.
Okada was ready to wrap things up, but Omega had different ideas. He delivered a dragon suplex off the top turnbuckle that looked like it damn near killed Okada, his head hitting the mat first, and bending his neck in a way it just shouldn’t be able to bend. Okada kicked out of the pin attempt, so Omega began working his neck.
The match had been going a long time now, and both men seemed like they were on their last fumes. The match started to go back and forth, neither able to main any real dominance. Omega kept teasing the One Winged Angel, but Okada would break free every time, and this time was able to transition it into a tombstone and rainmaker. Omega was finished, and Okada laid over him for the pin. Somehow, and god only knows how, Omega kicked out at the count of two. The crowd were going nuts, and the commentary team were speechless. So was I.
Omega was a man on borrowed time, but as Okada went to try and finish the match again, he poked his eyes. All he got in return was an angry drop kick from the champion that seemed to all but kill him. Somehow though, it was Omega who got the next near fall.
Both men up were up on their feet again, and clearly exhausted. They exchanged punches, before Omega hit a running knee strike. Okada kicked out of the pin attempt that followed, then was hit with a second running knee strike. Omega went for the One Winged Angel again, but Okada turned it into another Rainmaker!
Okada tried for a third Rainmaker, but Omega was clinging onto his hand for dear life. Finally, despite Omega’s best efforts, he hit it. Omega looked broken in half, but still managed to reverse an attempted fourth finisher from the champion, appearing to go for a Rainmaker himself but instead raising his knee for a massive hit to Okada’s face. He went for the One Winged Angel again, but Okada turned it into a jumping tombstone, then finally hit a fourth Rainmaker to put Omega away for the three count. Okada retains the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship.
What. A. Match.
These two men took almost an hour to settle this match, and what we got to witness was quite possibly one of the great professional wrestling matches of all time. Take a look at what people are saying online, including people in the business, and you’ll see that the praise this match is getting is off the charts. With the event getting more viewers from outside Japan than ever before, Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada cemented themselves as international superstars in the wrestling business, no question.
Everything was perfect, from start to finish. The pacing was well managed, and had that big fight feel that you want from a main event. The big spots were executed to perfection, and both men had opportunities to deliver high-risk moves that seemingly defied belief.
This feud isn’t over, and there’s no doubt that there is money to be made in having these two men battle over the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship right across 2017. Many felt that this was Omega’s moment to take the title, especially given NJPW plans to go global with its brand now, and Omega is the obvious pick for the face of the company in those circumstances. That said, they’ve made his eventual title win seem that much more of a big deal now, and it will be a hell of a moment when it comes.
Every wrestling fan should watch this main event, whether they know the wrestlers involved or not. It’s right up there with the greats, and has shown every other damn company and wrestler in the world how a main event should be done.
Match of the Night
Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada (C)
NJPW: Wrestle Kingdom 11 Final Score:
(3.5 for match ratings, but extra 0.5 for quality of the matches at the top of the card)