Wrestle Kingdom 11

Updated: Feb 9, 2020


Wrestle Kingdom 11 was the 25th edition of the January 4th Tokyo Dome show annually put on by New Japan Pro Wrestling. Wrestle Kingdom is the Japanese equivalent of Wrestlemania, a huge supershow crossing over company and national lines. NJPW has agreements with American promotion Ring Of Honor and Mexican promotion Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre, meaning they share talent.

There's a few major cultural differences in NJPW. It's less like the sports entertainment of WWE and closer to being promoted as a sport similar to Pride Fighting Championships. You won't see many supernatural gimmicks, they'll be grounded in reality. Class and honor are present, the fighting spirit is highly respected, there's a "may the best man win" approach. There's also a big emphasis on stables and teams, much like MMA fight camps. There's also two weight classes: heavyweight of over 220 pounds and junior heavyweight of under 220 pounds.

There's three major stables in NJPW right now. The rowdy and vulgar gaijin (foreigner) team known as Bullet Club, the cocky Los Ingobernables de Japon, and the powerful Chaos. Heavyweight challenger Kenny Omega, Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Young Bucks, Tag Team champions Guerrillas Of Destiny, NEVER Openweight Tag Team challengers Bad Luck Fale, Hangman Page and Yujiro Takahashi, ROH World challenger Adam Cole and the newly debuting Cody Rhodes are Bullet Club. Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito, Junior Heavyweight challenger Hiromu Takahashi and NEVER Openweight Tag Team challengers Bushi, Evil and Sanada make up LIJ, the Japanese affiliate of the Mexican stable. Chaos is an all-star team featuring NEVER Openweight challengers Will Ospreay, Jado and Yoshi-Hashi, Junior Heavyweight Tag challengers Roppongi Vice, Tag challengers Tomohoro Ishii and Toru Yano, NEVER Openweight challenger Hirooki Goto and Heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada.

 

Match 1

New Japan Rumble: This wasn't a good match so much as a fun match. Legends like Scott Norton, Jushin "Thunder" Liger and Billy Gunn joined ROH stars Cheeseburger and Michael Elgin. Yoshitatsu also returned in this pre-show match. Michael Elgin and his incredible power proved why ROH is so high on him as he returned to form in the Tokyo Dome after breaking his orbital bone last year.

Winner: Michael Elgin

Match 2

Anime Special Match: Tiger Mask W vs. Tiger The Dark: Another fun match with two of the best wrestlers in the world. "Tiger Mask W" is a reboot of the popular Japanese anime "Tiger Mask". This may have been a promotional tie-in, but under the masks were Kota Ibushi and ACH. Ibushi is probably the best Japanese wrestler in the world right now and ACH continues to stand out. Another fun match featuring two of the most athletic wrestlers on the planet, although it seemed the masks hampered that athleticism a bit.

Winner: Tiger Mask W

Match 3

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: The first of eight(!) championship matches on the card pit the polarizing Young Bucks against Roppongi Vice, continuing their rivalry. There's a lot of hype and hate in equal measure directed at the Young Bucks, but man, are they good. They talk a lot of trash, but they absolutely back it up in the ring. The Bucks arrived draped in gold, walking down the ramp with the Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, Ring Of Honor and IWGP Tag Team belts. Unfortunately for their title aspirations, RPG Vice took the championships via roll-up while the Young Bucks went for More Bang For Your Buck, winning the first match for Chaos in the first title change of the night.

Winners (New Champions): Roppongi Vice (Trent Baretta and Rocky Romero)

Match 4

NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championship: David Finlay, Ricochet and Satoshi Kojima had a solid match against LIJ and Bullet Club in a unique gauntlet match setting. This felt a bit predictable in the sense Finlay, Ricochet and Kojima were losing the belts. Ricochet stole some of the show, as he always does, but it's starting to be more and more apparent he's on another level. Whether he stays in Lucha Underground, or makes his way to the NJPW heavyweight division or goes to WWE, he's near-destined to be a huge star. As talented as LIJ and Bullet Club's representatives were, Will Ospreay and Ricochet did some incredible things. With Ospreay taking less independent dates and Ricochet developing, their classic at Best Of The Super Juniors could be the first of many.

Winners (New Champions): Los Ingobernables De Japon (Bushi, Evil and Sanada)

Match 5

Special Singles Match: Cody Rhodes is ridiculous. Unquestionably talented, commentary called him the best member of his vaunted wrestling family. In this NJPW run, he might just prove it. After leaving WWE as an above-average wrestler, he's become one of the top stars in the world. On the flipside, Juice Robinson deserves a lot of respect for his performance. Formerly known as CJ Parker in NXT, Juice is an absolute workhorse that does his absolute best in the ring at all times. The bumps he took, the moves he went for, he showed he's way more talented than his NXT run showed.

Winner: Cody Rhodes

Match 6

ROH World Championship: The biggest issue with the ROH/NJPW marriage is that one is so much better than the other. ROH is good. But it's the number two promotion in North America. Compare that to NJPW, the number two promotion in the world. Although Adam Cole and Kyle O'Reilly are good, and Cole is even a member of Bullet Club, but there's an unconscious comparison. The match was solid, it needed a bit more time. Cole and O'Reilly could be a rivalry that defines ROH, but with both wrestlers possibly on their way to bigger stages, how long can this last?

Winner (New Champion): Adam Cole

Match 7

IWGP Tag Team Championship: Another good match featuring Chaos, Guerrillas of Destiny and Great Bash Heel. The match felt a bit rushed, with yet another title change. This match has a ton of B-level talent, but it seemed the tier was established in this match. Chaos won, beating Bullet Club's Guerrillas of Destiny and taking GBH's title. It's clear Ishii and Yano are the stars and centerpieces of the future.

Winner (New Champion): Chaos (Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano)

Match 8

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: WWE's lighter weight class is promoted as an athletic experience. The cruiserweight division is supposed to be fast and high-flying. Oh boy, this match was not that. This was a bruising, hard-hitting match. The mix between Takahashi's lucha libre experience and Kushida's MMA experience turned a match I wasn't really looking forward to to a compelling fight. The story behind Takahashi finally winning the big one was something that I became invested in, even as a first-time viewer.

Winner (New Champion): Hiromu Takahashi

Match 9

NEVER Openweight Championship: This match is essentially a sequel to his previous match. The openweight format made this interesting, as Shibata's junior heavyweight status had to defend against an opponent twenty pounds heavier than him in Goto. Shibata was the more skilled wrestler, but Goto's strength and will made him a tough opponent. Goto and Shibata's history and chemistry together shone through in a very good match.

Winner (New Champion): Hirooki Goto

Match 10

IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Naito gives no swear words. Tanahashi cares deeply about his career. This was the Japanese equivalent of CM Punk vs. John Cena at Money In The Bank 2011. Naito being the prodigal son, the guy who was hated in Japan, taunted in Mexico, then he came back with a new attitude. He threw the belt, put his feet on the ropes, lied down in the mat, took his time entering the ring, kept his shirt on for matches he deemed unimportant. Tanahashi is the Cena of Japan, a living legend that brought NJPW back from the brink. Both respected in and respectful of his passion, he's considered the face of NJPW and the ace of Japan. Then Naito beat him. He beat him disrespectfully. He took the belt that has been elevated by so many others, including Tanahashi and made it his own,

Winner (Still Champion): Tetsuya Naito

Match 11

IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Dave Meltzer said this was a six-star match, possibly the best match he's ever seen in his thirty years of covering wrestling. This was an incredible match. Put it this way: I watched this match at 0300 before work. It took literally two minutes to get involved and those two minutes were Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada's introductions. The match was amazing, the storytelling of Omega not being able to hit his One-Winged Angel, the hard-hitting physicality, Okada needing four Rainmakers to finish Omega to retain. It was long without feeling drawn out, an emotional roller coaster not seen since Sami Zayn vs. Adrian Neville at NXT TakeOver: R Evolution. This is a must-watch for wrestling fans, casual and hardcore.

This was one of the best cards I've seen in a long time. When you consider the talent in the world right now, it's crazy that four days into the year, we have a legitimate Match Of The Year candidate. This could be a defining event for the future of NJPW and is definitely a turning point in their cold war with WWE.

#Wrestling #Review #Braven

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