New Japan Pro-Wrestling: King of Pro-Wrestling 2017 (Review)

Kazuchika Okada defends the IWGP Heavyweight Championship against the man who shocked the world by defeating him in the G1 Climax: EVIL. Tomohiro Ishii attempts to steal Tetsuya Naito’s future Wrestle Kingdom 12 championship match…


Leo Tonga, Yujiro Takahashi & Bad Luck Fale
vs.
Hiromu Takahashi, Bushi & Sanada
2half_star
(Winners via pinfall: Takahashi, Bushi & Sanada)

Toru Yano & Hirooki Goto
vs.
Zack Sabre Jr. & Minoru Suzuki
2half_star
(Winners via count out: Yano & Goto)

Ricochet & Ryusuke Taguchi (C)
vs.
Sho & Yoh (with Rocky Romero) (“Roppongi 3k”)
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
3star
(Winners via pinfall, and new champions: Sho & Yoh)

Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer (C)
vs.
Hanson & Raymond Rowe (“War Machine”)
vs.
Tanga Loa & Tama Tonga (“Guerillas of Destiny”)
3-Way Elimination Match for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
3half_star
(Winners via pinfall: Davey Boy & Archer)

Jado, Beretta & YOSHI-HASHI
vs.
Marty Scurll, Cody Rhodes & Kenny Omega
3star
(Winners via submission: Scurll, Rhodes & Omega)

Togi Makabe & Hiroshi Tanahashi
vs.
Kota Ibushi & Juice Robinson
3star
(Winners via pinfall: Robinson & Ibushi)

Kushida (C)
vs.
Will Ospreay
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship
4half_star
(Winner via pinfall, and new champion: Will Ospreay)

Tomohiro Ishii
vs
Tetsuya Naito
If Ishii Wins, He Takes Naito’s Opportunity To Challenge for IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 12
5star
(Winner via pinfall: Tetsuya Naito)

Kazuchika Okada (C)
vs.
EVIL
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
5star
(Winner via pinfall: Kazuchika Okada)


Review

Going into King of Pro-Wrestling, we already had a provisional main event for Wrestle Kingdom 12 in place. Tetsuya Naito would face reigning champion Kazuchika Okada and, as many expect to happen, the biggest Japanese wrestling show of 2018 will end with a brand new IWGP Heavyweight Champion. The outcome of said match is obviously all theory and prediction at this point, but one thing was clear, and that was that the planned main event was one that could get New Japan Pro-Wrestling a lot of eyes on them worldwide, and a lot of bums in seats in the Tokyo Dome. As such, it made the results of the two headline matches on this show quite predictable. But this is wrestling, and sometimes it has to be predictable.

In the case of Naito, he had a very enjoyable match with Tomohiro Ishii that did a damn good job of teasing a surprise win for the latter. As written earlier, the likelihood of a Naito defeat was slim to nothing, but there were genuine moments here when you would find yourself wide-eyed and not breathing, as the referee’s hand almost hit the mat for the three count.

In the end, Naito pulled victory out of the bag, and he’s got a few strong efforts under his belt these past few months, setting him up nicely for the Tokyo Dome in January 2018. That show comes with so much pressure for its headline stars, and I don’t doubt that he will look to top 2017’s Okada/Omega battle.

Speaking of Okada, he had an absolutely brilliant match with EVIL. It had lots of time, which is to be expected in NJPW, but the 30+ minute runtime really did make you question whether or not a spanner was going to be thrown in the works. An EVIL win would’ve lessened my enthusiasm for Wrestle Kingdom, but this match was so competitive that I honestly couldn’t have said that EVIL didn’t deserve to win, had he actually gone and done it.

I’ve written before about how Kazuchika Okada is the greatest world champion on the planet at this particular time, and nothing I’ve seen recently has made me question that statement. He’s gone through top guys, and now he’s making top guys. If you’re in the ring with Okada, and you’re actually putting the effort in too, he’s going to make you look like a star. No question, from his performance here, EVIL now looks a legitimate option for top singles matches in this company.

One final thing on this match: go check out Okada ducking a flying chair before launching into a dive over the guardrail…

The tag matches that filled two thirds of the show were enjoyable enough, designed to progress some of the current ongoing storylines. I expected the Bullet Club 6-man tag match to do a bit more development with Omega’s current storyline, but the match itself was fun, and all three Bullet Club members were hysterical throughout. Marty Scurll really fits in well with this group.

On the subject of Scurll, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited by his appearance at the end of Will Ospreay’s first ever IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship win. Scurll has declared himself Ospreay’s first challenger, and I’m curious as to when that match will take place, but if they hold off until Wrestle Kingdom, well that will be bloody fantastic, and well-earned by both men.

Ospreay’s match, for the record, was superb. On a show where the top singles matches were a lot slower and calculated, Ospreay and Kushida did was junior heavyweights do, and ran around like mad men, getting the crowd more involved than at any other time during the show. There were so many near calls for Ospreay, that it felt like Kushida would have his number yet again, but I actually fistbumped the air with both fists when he sealed the three count. This was a huge moment in his career, and I’m sure it’s just another stepping stone for the Aerial Assassin, who has a crazy good future ahead of him.

So, King of Pro-Wrestling was a typically great NJPW show. The relentless tag matches, as ever, always drag the shows down a little for me as far as overall ratings go, but once again there was absolutely nothing to fault from the singles matches, and only everything to praise. Rounding off 2017 in style, Japan.

Match of the Night

Kazuchika Okada vs. EVIL

Rating

3half_star

Watch this event at NJPWWorld.com
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