NJPW on AXS TV Report
December 30, 2016
Ryogoku Kokugikan Part 3 & Hakata Starlanes
By R.W. Andrews, PWTorch contributor
Wrestle Kingdom 10 Sampler
In preparation for Wrestle Kingdom 11, I’ve decided to take a look at a sample of Wrestle Kingdom 10 matches that aired on AXS. Jim Ross and Josh Barnett are going to do the heavy lifting for us, so let’s sit back and enjoy.
(1) reDRagon (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish) (C) vs. Ricochet & Matt Sydal vs. RPG Vice vs. The Young Bucks
IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship Title Match
Christ almighty how am I going to do this any justice? Screw it. Let’s just dive in head first and see what happens. The match is opening the show, for Wrestle Kingdom 10 at the Tokyo Dome. And let me just say for those who haven’t seen it. My God this is a huge building with over 25,000 in attendance. The stage setup is so lush, alive with color displayed on trons streaking in the style of an internet signal flanking the sides of one massive tron. The ramp itself is a good Hail Mary lob away from the ring, making for sweeping shots where the wrestlers are engulfed in a sea of fans. And as an added bonus, the long ramp leads to extended plays of each wrestler’s theme songs.
A brief cannon shot of fireworks shoot skyward to kick off the event. The Young Bucks are out first, tasseled and pantsed in a potpourri of colors, along with Cody Hall. Nick is riding Hall’s shoulders to the ring. I’ve yet to see Cody hall wrestle, and maybe it’s the pedigree talking, but I can’t wait to get that match. Roppongi Vice is out next. It is the team of Rocky Romero, who is wearing an eyepatch of himself wearing an eyepatch, and Trent Barreta greased up like a cast iron skillet. Next out is whom JR calls the “greatest tag team in the business”. We get Matt Sydal, who I know by name only, and none other than f***ing Ricochet! Just seeing him walk out says two things. One, can he please sign a deal with New Japan full time. And two, how in the hell am I going to describe moves by a guy notorious for taking off interstellar to deliver acrobatic goodness?
We get a quick-cut and the champions, reDRagon are in the ring. .5 seconds in and the Young Bucks, with Hall, have thrown everyone out of the ring. And here we go. Matt is in the ring with Fish, pounding away at Fish’s head in the full mount. Tag to Nick for a double team hip toss and drop kick. Nice and smooth. The Young Bucks tag in and out, working over Fish as JR says, “Fish hasn’t even had time to get his t-shirt off for God’s sake!” Fish back-elbows Nick, backdrops Matt outside to the apron for Kyle O’Reilly to dropkick him to the floor, and gets a fallaway slam on Nick. Tag to O’Reilly. ReDRagon trade off on kneeing Nick in the stomach before sending him to the ropes. Nick screeches the tires, shrieks for them to “suck it”, then tags in Sydal and he’s out of there. Sydal leaps onto the ropes and hurricanrannas Fish, but O’Reilly gives him some of the rough stuff – stiff kicks to the chest and a stomp to the back of the head. He’s off to the ropes, but Sydal is right on his heels to clothesline him.
Romero smacks Sydal’s shoulder, jumps in for a European Uppercut, and tags Barreta for a double-team top rope stomp to the gut. Barreta plants two collarbone crushing chops to Sydal that put him down. O’Reilly knees out of a vertical suplex, misses a leaping head stomp, but like the residual bounce on a trampoline, is back in the air to kick Barreta in the face. Beautiful enzuigiri by Barreta sends O’Reilly staggering to the corner as Nick Jackson smacks him to become legal. Barreta elbows Jackson off the apron and hits a rough looking back suplex on O’Reilly. JR: “I thought the tag was made quite frankly.” Hell, so did I. The Jacksons are huddled up outside with Sydal as Hall wraps his arm around Matt’s shoulder to make for a cushier landing for Barreta’s suicide dive.
We get a quick-cut to the quick cuts of Ricochet’s ankle breaking offense. He front-rolls under a Matt Jackson clothesline, then back to catch Matt’s head and tosses him aside. Sydal back-elbows Matt into the corner for Ricochet to hit a flooooaaaating dropkick. The hangtime! Nick boots both Sydal and Ricochet in the guts, but is drop-toeholded into a low dropkick by Ricochet. Tandem standing moonsault/indo (my call there) by Sydal and Ricochet onto Nick. Matt is in and tosses them aside as the camera pulls back to show everyone else huddled in small pockets around the ringside apron. Matt hits the ropes for momentum but is laced in the chest by reDRagon.
They rush Matt – O’Reilly backdropped onto the apron to Matt’s right and Fish backdropped to his left. Fish flips past Matt and onto a cluster of bodies outside as O’Reilly locks in an armbar over the ropes to Matt. Nick chooses to let his brother burn by the fire and flips over Matt and O’Reilly and onto an even larger cluster of bodies that now includes Fish. He’s up fast, superkicking O’Reilly’s face to finally free Matt. Romero gets into the ring, but just uses the ropes to plancha outside onto Nick. More huddles, everyone buddied up nice and close for Sydal to climb the top and hit a picture perfect, cover of the program if caught on camera right, arching moonsault onto everyone. Ricochet wants to show them how it’s done for style points, but is tripped up by Hall who is lurking on the outside. Hall steps over the top ropes, snatches Ricochet up in the Razor’s Ede, and lobs Ricochet onto everyone!
Hall rolls Ricochet back into the ring where Matt Jackson is waiting. Big buckle bomb in tandem with an outside enzuigiri from Nick. Matt is off to the races as Ricochet drops in a heap at the turnbuckles, darting corner to corner to land a cannonball while Nick’s leg sweeps into shot for another smack to the back of the head. Senton by Nick, who somehow got the tag, gets a two. Sydal comes in to make the save, landing a Frankensteiner on Nick. Ricochet has some life left, hitting a Northern Lights Suplex on Matt that he rolls through and delivers an equally devastating vertical suplex. Ahh, this guy is so amazing in the ring! Ricochet and Sydal have Matt and Nick posted up against opposite corners, hitting clotheslines and dropkicks until Ricochet redirects towards the ropes, perches himself up high to hit a Shooting Star Press onto Hall. He actually leapt out of camera view before crashing back down to Earth! Back in the ring, Sydal hits a pump-handle slam on Nick as Ricochet hurdles the ropes from the apron to launch himself into a 450 splash onto Nick! He goes for the cover, but Matt pushes Sydal into the pinfall to break it up.
Stereo slams to the Young Bucks by Ricochet and Sydal. They both head up top, and both get crotched on the turnbuckle by reDRagon. I’ll let JR call what happen to Sydal by a carousel of offense from reDRagon: “O’Reilly with a running forearm. Fish with a running knee. Sydal not running anywhere.” They hit a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker/kneedrop combo onto Sydal. O’Reilly hits rolling butterfly suplexes on Matt Jackson, followed by a butterfly DDT, comboed into a wheelbarrow suplex with Fish. It only gets a two thanks to Hall dragging Fish off of Matt and to the outside.
They switch to an overhead shot of bodies laid out as Hall misses a running elbow on Fish after whipping him into the guardrail. O’Reilly leaps off the apron and cracks Hall in the head with a knee that sends both men crashing into the guardrail. JR half-sings the O’Reilly Autoparts theme as the Young Bucks try to hit a double-team suplex on O’Reilly. Fish connects with O’Reilly to try and suplex the Young Bucks as Sydal comes in to try to suplex Fish. Everyone is back to life and enters the ring, clinging to one another like crabs in a bucket while Romero runs around looking for someone to suplex. He decides on Nick, evening the scrum so the reDRagon/Vice squad score the suplexes. I know it was supposed to be this awesome move, but it looked silly to these eyes. But that’s just me. The redeeming quality was Barnett calling it a “suplex scenario”.
Romero dropkicks Sydal & Ricochet, then hits a hurricanranna on Fish. ReDRagon are in opposite corners, as our The Young Bucks, leading to Romero running around and delivering clotheslines to each man. Sydal and Ricochet come in, but get double clotheslined by Romero. The crowd is cheering loudly for this. Meh. Barreta enters the ring for a leaping dropkick by Romero/sliding knee by Barreta combo on Sydal for two. Sydal sneaks in a jumping knee on Romero that sends a plume of sweat and spit into the air. Sydal hits the ropes, but Barreta and Romero land dual jumping knees on him. Suicide Dive by Romero onto reDRagon outside.
Romero comes back in just in time to join Barreta for a Canadian Destroyer and a Pele Kick by Sydal and Ricochet. They both head up top as Matt sneaks in to smack Sydal on the back, and hit dual shooting star presses that soared at the apex of the jump. GOREGEOUS. Matt glides under the ropes, tosses Sydal the hell out of the ring, and covers Romero for a two. Matt lifts Romero onto his shoulders, hits the running scoop-up somersault (Josh call) while Nick scrapes the skyline with a 450, and in one smooth movement Matt leaps up top for a moonsault. That was truly beautiful tag team offense. So inventive. So good for the three.
Winners: The Young Bucks in 16:42 to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Championships
(Andrews’ Analysis: Well I think WE’RE all in agreement on six-man tags, but what about four team tags? It was fun. The offense was fun to look at and the chaos was fun to take in, but fun is the only adjective I can give it. The match was a starter’s pistol, a loud bang to get the crowd ready for the marathon of matches to come. For that, I give it a thumbs up.)
We get a backstage interview with…holy s- it’s Shibata! He’s wearing a black t-shirt that simply reads “THE WRESTLER” in white block print across the chest. He talks about the Tokyo Dome and how every single match during the year is a step towards the Dome. Shibata talks about his prior attempts to dethrone Ishii and he knew that after those he would have to do better. As far as Ishii himself, Shibata says that Ishii is just as he seems and when they fight neither one of them are willing to give up. That’s how Ishii versus Shibata goes.
(2) Tomohiro Ishii (C) vs. Katsuyori Shibata
NEVER Openweight Championship Match
Oh that lovely opening to Shibata’s theme and entrance! It’s miraculous, perfectly setting the calm before the storm of war. KUSHIDA’s spot atop my favorite wrestlers is fairly safe, but Shibata chips away at it every time I see him. There’s something about his entrance, style, and demeanor that hits the sweet spot. And I’m aware that I gush about Tanahashi’s music every time I see him, but I would like to throw Shibata’s in there for best in the business. As JR tells us that Shibata and Ishii have “a history of stiff, brutal matches”, Shibata walks out and stiff-arms the camera. Perfect timing. He looks intense as he walks down the ramp to the ring. Another great line by JR about Shibata. “He was bred to be a champion” and “I have compared him in look, and feel, the long ranging frame to the great Antonio Inoki”. Hell, you don’t even have to follow Japanese pro wrestling to know that name. Sirens! Dog barks! Ishii! Total bad ass stomping to the ring! That video package for him on the tron is sheer brutality. It’s shot after shot of strong style violence. Ishii is coming to put in work, looking serious with his head up and eyes focused on Shibata. The two meet within inches of one another in the middle of the ring as Red Shoes grabs the belt. I’m not a chant guy, but this is awesome.
The bells rings and they sprint to the middle of the ring and begin slapping one another in quick succession. The slapping gives way to Shibata drilling Ishii over and over with forearms. Shibata misses a big boot, gets shoulder-tackled by Ishii, and narrowly slides out of the way of a diving clothesline. His sweeping kick to Ishii’s head is ducked as the crowd erupts. There’s such a big fight feel to this match. Shibata walks up to Ishii and points at his chin. Batsu game! Forearm by Ishii, forearm by Shibata, forearm by Ishii, forearm by Shibata, four more forearms and the camera cuts to Liger and Masahiro Chono at ringside. Wait, what? Go back, Man! Go back! The camera cuts back in time to pick up four stiff forearms by Ishii followed by a knee to the gut by Shibata and the Batsu is over. Tepid Batsu thanks to the camera cut. Shibata kicks Ishii while he is down and begins paint-brushing the back of his head with his boot.
Ishii slams the mat and pops up to forearm Shibata. Snapmare into a hard kick to the back of Shibata’s shoulders. Shibata thumbs his nose and rises to his feet. Awesome. Holy s-! Ishii plops down on the mat and tells Shibata to lay one in! Shibata does, and ouch. Shibata returns the favor and sits back down! Ishii lays one in and Shibata is back up. And now Ishii squats back down. Loud smack as Shibata’s boot forces an agonizing scream from Ishii. They trade another round of sit and stiffs to the back! The last kick by Shibata dumps Ishii on the mat. Ishii groggily tries to get back to his feet and gets hammered by a knife-edge on the way up. The two trade chops before Shibata asks Ishii to keep em’ coming. Jesus Christ they keep coming. Six stiff, ear-piercing chops drop Shibata to the mat. But Shibata kips up and delivers a bulldozing forearm the crumples Ishii to the mat!
Shibata picks up Ishii, but is caught in a backdrop suplex. Ishii insults Shibata with a few kicks to the face and goes to town with chops and forearms in the corner. Ishii scores with a running clothesline in the opposite corner, but it fuels Shibata into a deluge of forearms and a running kick to the face. These forearms are being laid in hard guys. Really damn hard. Shibata traps Ishii in an abdominal stretch that is transitioned into an octopus hold. I haven’t seen that move in ages and I love seeing it here. Ishii gets the ropes, but Shibata stays on him with kicks to the chest and laces-out facewashing to Ishii. Shibata lands punches, chops and forearms that fire up Ishii. He rocks Shibata with a thunderous forearm and Shibata is dumped in the corner. Facewashing by Ishii, talking tons of s- as he does so. Shibata pops up, screaming at Ishii. A HUGE forearm by Shibata sends Ishii on his ass in the corner! Back and forth we go.
Floating dropkick by Shibata scores, but Ishii pops to his feet and clotheslines Shibata. Shibata is back up and dropkicks the side of Ishii’s face and both men are down. JR: “It’s a Tokyo Dome slobberknocker here tonight!” Shibata hits a float-over suplex for two and transitions into a triangle. Beautiful stuff. Ishii tries to lift Shibata, but ultimately has to get to the ropes. Shibata boots Ishii in the arm and chest, but gets greedy on a big boot and is smacked by an Ishii forearm. Batsu game! Big boot by Shibata, clothesline by Ishii, big boot by Shibata, big clothesline by Ishii, another boot, another clothesline, another back and forth, German suplex by Shibata, German suplex by Ishii, big boot, clothesline, and they’re both down! That was vicious as hell and a far batter Batsu than the first!
Back to a full stand, Ishii lays in chops to Shibata’s throat and hits a powerbomb for two. Ishii puts Shibata up top, but Shibata sneaks in a wristlock and drops Ishii’s arm over the top rope. Ishii is quick to recover and the big man lands a missile dropkick from the top rope! JR: “It’s like seeing an SUV do a dropkick.” Ishii lands a clothesline but Shibata kicks out at one. Ishii mows down Shibata with a second clothesline, this time getting a two. Shibata counters Ishii’s suplex with one of his own and both men stay down. Shibata is up first, keeping Ishii dazed with forearms. Ishii tries to kick Shibata, but it’s caught and the one-time high flyer is devoured by a clothesline. Death Valley Driver by Shibata! Shibata locks in a choke, the camera picking up Ishii’s face struggling for air as he slowly makes his way to the ropes. A PK is blocked by Ishii and he delivers a driving headbutt to the point of Shibata’s jaw! Both men are down again and slowly struggle back to even footing. They square up after successive Ishii clotheslines and Shibata bashes his forehead into Ishii. Ow, ow, ow! It hit with a thick sounding thud. They collide forehead to forehead, both men wobbling backwards. JR: “This is obscene.” Shibata lands a dropkick, but as he hits the ropes he gets upended by a BIG lariat. And another, folding Shibata on the mat for two. Shibata catches Ishii with a sick spinning back fist, but Ishii hits a Pele-esque kick! Amazing! Shibata punts Ishii in the chest, dumping him on his rear. PK! Oh my God it hit like a ton of bricks! 1,2,3! We’ve got a new champion!
Winner: Katsuyori Shibata in 17:19 to become the NEVER Openweight Champion
(Andrews’ Analysis: I think JR said it best when he said “Seventeen minutes and nineteen seconds of hell!” This was the most brutal match I have ever seen post-hardcore era. These weren’t soft shots to the head, neck, and shoulders. Each strike hit flush and popped my speakers. Both men can take so much punishment that it’s superhuman. Batsu All-Star match! That’s the best way I can put it. It’s not gruesome, so those with a quivering constitution can enjoy it. With that said, everyone within eyeshot of these words has to check this match out. And if you’re a Batsu lover, DO NOT make the Batsu a drinking game. TORCH Tower has a good legal team, but not that good.)
(3) Kazuchika Okada (C) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
IWGP Heavyweight Title Match
Oh the joys of being able to cover this promotion. Tanahashi looks amazing, decked out in a vibrant swatch of colors while air-guitaring along the walkway. Ok fine. You got me. I did a very slight air guitar of my own. I had to. It’s like being told not to press THE red button. You gotta press it. The champ is out next with Gedo by his side. Cash floats down from the sky as somewhere off camera a Nifler is losing its mind trying to grab it all. JR compares this match to Stone Cold versus The Rock. I like where he’s going with this. And you know Red Shoes is reffing this one. He’s Mr. Big Stage.
The crowd explodes as the bell rings and the men tie up. Okada backs Tanahashi in the corner, pats down his chest, and ducks a swipe from the challenger. Okada scores with a forearm and backs up. Tanahashi retaliates with a forearm of his own and the two back up from one another. I love the feeling out process going on. They square up in the middle of the ring and Tanahashi smacks Okada, but gets booted in the chin for the transgression. Okada’s chinlock is reversed into a hammerlock. Wonderful chain wrestling between the two, switching in and out of holds until Tanahashi can get a headscissors. Okada gets out and works on a headlock. Tanahashi is out and slaps on one of his own, wrenching on Okada’s dome. Tanahashi gets a shin-breaker on Okada and chopblocks his right knee. Tanahashi is savvy, so he stays on the injury, kicking and dropping elbows on Okada’s knee.
Okada eats a back elbow, but catches Tanahashi’s cross-body into a tombstone. Tanahashi sneaks out, winding up on the apron as Okada springs off the second rope to deliver a dropkick that dumps Tanahashi outside. Okada gingerly rolls outside and Irish Whips Tanahashi up and over the guardrail. Glad to see the guardrails are getting more camera time. The hell with the bad knee, Okada runs after Tanahashi, clearing the railing, and hits a cross-body. Okada rolls Tanahashi back in before Red Shoes can get to twenty. Okada sentons back inside with style. Okada puts Tannish up top, but is booted to the mat. Tanahashi misses a front flip as JR says that Okada is staying one step ahead. He hits a running hip attack, scores with a DDT, kips up, and blasts Tanahashi with a diving European Uppercut. Nice combo.
A big European Uppercut puts Tannish in the corner. Tanahashi sprints back and tries for a low dropkick to Okada’s knee, but Okada moves out of the way. They exchange Irish whips and Tanahashi finally lands the low dropkick. Dragon screw leg whip by Tanahashi, putting his offensive focus on the knee. Okada rolls outside as Tanahashi hits the top turnbuckle. Okada catches him. They jockey for position, leaving Okada’s leg exposed between the ropes and Tanahashi dragon screws it. He stays on Okada’s knee, getting another dragon screw between the ropes. Slingblade on the apron! Gorgeous! Okada is down and out on the floor as Tanahashi goes up top and soars down with a High Fly Flow. Okada gathers himself to get in at 19.
Tanahashi gets a scoop slam on Okada and hits the second turnbuckle for a splash on Okada’s knee. Tanahashi fights for a Cloverleaf as Okada struggles mightily to reach the ropes and break the hold. Tanahashi continues to stay on the knee, wrapping Okada’s leg around the ropes to dropkick it. They exchange pinfalls, leading to Okada getting a breather with a modified neckbreaker. The crowd roars as the two men get back up and trade forearms in a rapid fire Batsu. Okada is on point, landing four low dropkicks that ultimately lead to a two. Okada, bad knee and all, goes up top and hits a dropkick that jolts Tanahashi to the mat. He goes back up top one more time to hit the Macho Man elbow.
Rainmaker…misses. Tombstone…escaped. Tanahashi strikes Okada’s other knee with a low dropkick and dragon screws the right leg. Tanahashi catches Okada’s dropkick and delivers the lowest dragon screw you’ll ever see. It was inches away from the mat. Great stuff. Tanahashi locks on the Cloverleaf, modified by the looks of it, and drops down to apply pressure. Okada breaks it at the ropes after minutes in the move. Tanahashi hits a neckbreaker and is up quick to deliver a Slingblade. High Fly Flow, but Okada rolls out of the way. Okada plants Tanahashi into the mat with tombstone and calls for rain! And he gets it! And Tanahashi kicks out! Are you kidding me? This is crazy! Barnett says that Tanahashi is the first man to kick out of the Rainmaker.
Okada goes up top…and hits a High Fly Flow! 1, 2, kickout! Okada goes for a second Rainmaker, but Tanahashi ducks and hits his own Rainmaker! Both men are down on the mat! This is insane! Okada is the first to his feet and gets kicked in the knee. Another kick is blocked, as is Okada’s tombstone, and the Rainmaker is countered into a Slingblade by Tanahashi. Dragon suplex, perfectly executed, gets a two. Tanahashi hits the High Fly Flow to Okada’s back. He goes up again as Okada rolls over, and hits it again! 1, 2, kickout! Tanahashi is gasping for air, bewildered as he rolls onto his side to catch his breath. Tanahashi scrambles back to his feet and goes up top again. His High Fly Flow attempt is countered by a dropkick as the crowd loses their minds! Tanahashi fights out of a German Suplex and smacks Okada in the face. Okada answers with a textbook dropkick. The Rainmaker is missed, as is Tanahashi’s Slingblade, and Okada hits a German suplex. Okada tries to roll it into a second, but is smacked for it. Both men drop to a knee, with Okada holding onto Tanahashi’s wrist, and hits the Rainmaker! He’s still holding on, belting Tanahashi with a second Rainmaker! And a third! 1,2,3! What a god damn war!
After the match, Okada has the mic and wants to say three things. His voice is echoing in the mic like “Today-day-ay-y”. First, he says that the IWGP isn’t easy. If it was, he wouldn’t have struggled as much as he did. He calls Tanahashi strong and tells him that they can do it again. That’s a good deal for us fans right there. Secondly, he wants to raise New Japan to a whole new level and he’ll take it there. And thirdly, he’ll continue to liven up New Japan. Before Okada leaves up the ramp, he tells the crowd that he’s going to continue to make money rain.
Winner: Kazuchika Okada in 36:01 to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Championship
(Andrews’ Analysis: I repeat, what a god damn war! I loved, loved, LOVED the deliberate pace of most of this match with Okada staying one step ahead and Tanahashi trying to keep up by working on the knee and slow the champion down. And Okada had that knee worked on the entire match. It was relentless. As was the pace of the final ten minutes. It was non-stop, no-breather, reversal-heavy insanity. There was no better way to end this match then the sequence where they hit each other’s moves, ultimately having the champion win with having to hit his signature three times. Great challenger. Great champion. Great match. I love this promotion.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: The four team dance was a spectacle, but a welcomed one. It’s a nice way to kick off such a massive event. The NEVER Openweight match did not disappoint. I’ve been waiting to see Ishii vs. Shibata and it was toe-to-toe snotboxing from pugilistic perfectionists. If that would have been the main event of the whole show I don’t think anyone would have complained. How both men are still breathing to this day boggles my mind after seeing that. I’ll say it again for those who are possibly within eyeshot as your friend is scrolling down the screen. Watch that match. Stop everything and watch it. The same goes for the main event. What a war. I could watch those two go at it once a year and be more than happy with the time I invested each time. And if you can’t tell, I’m pumped for Wrestle Kingdom 11. As should you.)
Thanks for reading and kick a little ass this week why don’t ya.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: 12/23 NJPW on AXS TV Review: Shinsuke Nakamura & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Styles & Omega, Tanahashi vs. Omega