wrestling / TV Reports

411’s NJPW Wrestle Kingdom VIII Review 1.06.14

January 6, 2014 | Posted by TJ Hawke

January 4, 2014
Tokyo, Japan

Dark Match
BUSHI, Captain New Japan, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Tomoaki Honma vs. Jushin Thunder Liger, Manabu Nakanishi, Super Strong Machine & Yohei Komatsu
This is my first time seeing Komatsu.

Honma got ran through to start the match. He quickly came back and cut off Komatsu. The young lion got worked over for a bit. I’m so happy Tenzan is not on the main card. He eventually managed to tag out to Nakanishi. He seems like he’s getting in worse shape. Literally, as I typed that, he hit a koppou kick on Tenzan. He then hit a weak lariat on Tenzan for a nearfall. Honma slowed him down with a back suplex. Komatsu and Tenzan squared off. They slightly botched something. Komatsu caught him with a couple of pinning combinations for nearfalls. The match broke down. The good Captain choked Komatsu down to the mat. Honma then hit the falling headbutt. Tenzan then hit the diving headbutt, but Komatsu’s teammates saved him. Tenzan caught Komatsu with a deep Boston Crab. Komatsu tapped out.

This had to be one of the better dark matches I’ve seen from NJPW in a long, long time. Normally, NJPW dark matches feel like a complete waste of time. Komatsu being in the match made the match so much more interesting.
Match Rating: **1/2

The Young Bucks© (Nick & Matt Jackson) vs. The Time Splitters (Alex Shelley & KUSHIDA) vs. The Forever Hooligans (Rocky Romero & Alex Koslov) vs. Suzuki-gun (TAKA Michinoku & Taichi) [IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championships]
The production values on this show are off the charts.

Koslov was starting the Russian national anthem, but the Young Bucks decided to ruin it by throwing a #SuperkickParty. KUSHIDA sent them to the floor with a handspring back elbow. The Hooligans ran through their shit. Suzuki-gun ran through their shit. There was an eight person suplex spot. Everyone did some movez. Everyone dove to the floor. Taichi then ripped off his pants. He was going to be the last to dive, but the Bucks ended up superplexing him onto everyone on the floor. They all got back in the ring and traded more movez. Eventually, Taichi ate The More Bang for Your Buck: 1…2…3.

I enjoyed this match, but I could not help but be underwhelmed by the lack of crowd heat for it at times. Everyone pulled out a lot of cool stuff, but I was hoping for something more memorable. It’s good to see that the Bucks won, at least. I demand a Bucks defense against The Time Splitters.
Match Rating: ***

Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.)© vs. Bullet Club (Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows) [IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championships]
Hmmmmm. I’m not sure if it’s going to be good.

Gallows and Anderson were wearing camouflage gear. Oh gawd, I just realized KES are going to have to work tecnico here. Tama Tonga tried to interfere early on, but the KES took care of him. The distraction allowed the Bullet Club to get the advantage though. Smith got worked over for a while. NJPW needs some new gaijin heavyweights to mix it up in this division. Also, Karl Anderson should be in a higher position than this in my opinion. Smith avoided a Gun Stun and tagged out to Lance Archer. Archer was walking the ropes, but Tonga crotched him. Archer gave Anderson the Black Out. He had the match won, but Tonga pulled out the referee. KES gave Tonga their double team powerbomb. The teams went back and forth. Anderson ate a chokeslam from Archer: 1…2…NO! Thank gawd. Anderson reversed another chokeslam into a Gun Stun. Archer then ate the Magic Killer: 1…2…3. I love how that finish has passed from Albert/Tomko, to Albert/Anderson, and now to Anderson/Gallows.

This match was passable. The action itself was fine, but the crowd did not care. I did not care. It was there. As I’ve been writing since I started watching NJPW in September 2012, the heavyweight tag division needs a lot of work. These new champions feel like only a slight step up.
Match Rating: **1/2

Rob Conway© vs. Satoshi Kojima [NWA Heavyweight Championship]
Harley Race came into the ring before the match. He needs a cane to get around. He still didn’t get around too easy though. Bruce Tharpe did the announcing for Conway. Tharper got in Race’s face before the match. Race punched him.

Kojima has a taped up right shoulder. That should make for some enthralling ring work. Kojima gave him a DDT on the apron. Kojima was in control for a bit, but of course, Conway cut him off and got the heat. He hit a sitout spinebuster for a nearfall. Kojima avoided a lariat and hit an Ace Crusher. He then got a nearfall with a brainbuster. Hiroyoshi Tenzan took out Jax Dane on the floor. Conway avoided a lariat and hit a spear. Kojima eventually caught him with the lariat: 1…2…3. Harley Race presented the belt to Kojima.

Of everything on the show, this is the match that has grabbed the crowd the most. Does a solid midcard match on the biggest show of the year make up for all the Rob Conway matches NJPW has presented in the last year? Nooope.
Match Rating: **3/4

Kazushi Sakuraba & Yuji Nagata vs. Rolles Gracie & Daniel Gracie
This could be a complete disaster. They went back and forth. They weren’t doing a worked MMA match exactly, but they were definitely doing stuff that looked like MMA to a noob like me. They obviously mixed in a fair bit of pro wrestling considering the Gracies never worked a match before. Nagata did the eye roll armbreaker. Eventually, Rolles choked out Nagata with his gi. The referee disqualified him. Wut.

After the match, they cut some promos. I had trouble deciphering the body language, which is how I normally understand Japanese promos. I sensed that a re-match or something of that sort is in the works. Let me check. Yes, that seems to be the case. That sounds awful. No one wants to see that.

This seemed like a shaky idea on paper, and while the match itself was not the worst thing I’ve ever seen, the finish was a definitive DUD. Let’s hope nothing is worse than this match on the rest of the card.
Match Rating: 1/4*

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Shelton Benjamin) vs. Toru Yano & The Great Muta
Having Minoru Suzuki and Shelton Benjamin team up and come out to Suzuki’s music causes me to run the gamut of emotions. Suzuki’s music is, by far, the best theme in pro wrestling.

I genuinely forgot Muta was on the show. The match broke down quickly and turned into a brawl on the floor. Eventually, the rudos got Yano back in the ring, and they worked him over for a while. Shelton went for the Stinger Splash at one point, but Yano had undone a turnbuckle pad. Shelton crashed and burned. Muta tagged in and used a chair on Shelton and Suzuki. Yano and Suzuki went back and forth. Shelton attacked Yano. He finally hit his lame Stinger Splash. Muta caught Suzuki with a Wizard. Shelton ate one, too. Muta went to mist Suzuki, but he ducked and Taichi ate it. Suzuki choked out Muta. There was a convoluted finish that ended with Suzuki accidentally on purpose getting the mist and then getting caught by Yano with a small package: 1…2….3.

This was another “just a match” match. The last few matches have some work to do in order to elevate this show. Go away, Shelton. No one wants you here.
Match Rating: **

Bad Luck Fale vs. Togi Makabe [King of Destroyer Match]
I think this is a Last Man Standing match. I could be very wrong. Ok, apparently this match can only end via knockout or submission.

They quickly ended up on the floor. Fale choked Makabe with his own chain. Fale was in control for a bit, but Makabe eventually caught him with a lariat. Makabe made a comeback. Makabe set up a table on the floor. Chekhov’s table. Fale brought him back in the ring and hit The Big O. The referee counted, but thankfully, Makabe got to his feet. Fale then hit the Samoan Spike. Makabe beat the count again. He then hit a Border Toss, but he still managed to get to his feet. Fale went for a frog splash, but Makabe avoided it. They ended up on the floor again, and Makabe put Fale through the table. Fale hit the back of his head on the floor hard. Back in the ring, Makabe hit two diving knee drops. Fale was knocked out.

This match was okay. Fale did not look too bad, but he probably needs to continue to be protected in tag matches going forward.
Match Rating: **1/2

It’s time for the last four matches to save the show.

Hirooki Goto vs. Katsuyori Shibata
These guys had a fantastic match back at Dominion. They also had two other solid PPV matches that I did not find nearly as enjoyable. They are going to hit each other very, very hard. I assume Goto is winning here, but I would definitely prefer to see Shibata set up as challenger for Okada.

Shibata got the first advantage, but Goto came back with a lariat and some kicks. They traded some strikes. Shibata got an abdominal stretch that he transitioned into a release German. They traded saito suplexes. They traded one counts. Shibata weakened him with a sleeper and then hit a DVD on his knee. Shibata hit a weak Penalty Kick: 1…2…no. Goto came back with a Dominator on his knee, and then two powerslams on his knee where Shibata landed head first on Goto’s knee. Goto then hit a reverse Shouten. Shibata came back with a Shouten Kai. They traded headbutts. Both headbutts looked unpleasant. Goto got a one count with a lariat. He then hit four more before Shibata went down again. He followed that up with the Shouten Kai: 1…2…3

Shibata helped Goto to the back. The childhood friends are still friends after their rivalry. Yay!

I enjoyed this a lot more than pretty much everything else on the show so far. It came nowhere close to their Dominion match, but I did not really expect them to. I’m definitely ready for Shibata to move on from this feud. I’m definitely not ready for Goto’s latest push to the main event title picture.
Match Rating: ***1/2

Prince Devitt© vs. Kota Ibushi [IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship]
There was a video package before the match. Kota was holding an umbrella in the rain. He gently put the umbrella down and then did a backflip off a park wall. Five stars. Devitt has held this belt on three separate for over a thousand total days. The latter stat is the second most of all time (Liger is obviously number one there).

Devitt’s entrances was so over the top. I have no words for it. Google it. Also, he had body makeup on that I suppose was to make him look like a zombie. He looked more like a demon to me. Ok, as usual, I am the goober. He looked like Carnage. He was also obviously accompanied by the Bullet Club.

The Bullet Club quickly got involved and gave Devitt the advantage. Devitt was in complete control for a while. Kota avoided a ghetto stomp. The Bucks ran into the ring, but Kota gave them the double Pele. Kota then wiped out everyone else with a corkscrew Asai moonsault. Someone in the Club managed to throw a chair in Kota’s face. Devitt then got a nearfall with a schoolboy and handful of tights. Kota came right back with a bridging German for a nearfall. The referee sent the Club to the back. Some other referees helped out with that cause. Devitt was back in control though. Kota came back with a springboard super ‘rana for a nearfall. Kota rolled through a failed Phoenix Splash, but Devitt then hit a lariat and a reverse Bloody Sunday: 1…2…NO! Devitt then hit a Ghetto Stomp: 1…2…NO! Kota came back with a high kick, a snap German, and a lariat. Kota hit a Liger Bomb: 1…2…NO! Phoenix Splash: 1…2…3!!!

El Desperado came out to establish himself as the next challenger.

While this is not the best match these two have had together (a high standard to meet to be sure), I enjoyed the story of the match and how Devitt’s reign came to an end. He had been ducking title matches (presumably) and cheating to win most of his matches recently. He finally lost after the whole Bullet Club got sent to the back, and Kota proved then to be the better man.
Match Rating: ***3/4

Kazuchika Okada© vs. Tetsuya Naito [IWGP Heavyweight Championship]
I have to believe that NJPW allowed the fans to vote on which title match main evented their biggest show of the year because they were losing faith in Naito, and not Okada. These two arguably had the MOTY in 2012, but Naito has never seemingly fully recovered from his injury. At the very least, he has not been the same performer since he returned.

Naito being the Dome Show challenger was unfortunately a poor decision in retrospect. He just did not have the necessary momentum needed to be the challenger of the biggest championship on the biggest show of the year. As such, I genuinely cannot be angry at NJPW for booking Tanahashi/Nakamura and having it go on last. It was obviously the bigger match.

I just noticed that Yujiro was not on the show, and then I laughed. I do not like Yujiro. Okada got control after a springboard dropkick that sent Naito to the floor. Okada started going after the neck of Naito. Naito fought back, and the referee had to pull him off attacking Okada in the corner. Okada went for a tombstone on the floor, but Naito escaped and hit a tornado DDT on the floor. Naito delivered some viscous headbutts, and again, the referee really had to forcefully get him to stop. Okada dropkicked him to the floor again, but this time, Naito caught his previously injured knee in the ringpost. Okada then hit a handing DDT to the floor. Okada tried to win via countout, but Naito made it back in. Okada hit the Hail to the King and then called for the Rainmaker. Naito avoided it. He then reversed the FU into a DDT. Naito got a Koji Clutch variation. Okada made the ropes. Okada came back with a flapjack. Okada went for Red Ink, and he eventually managed to lock it in even though Naito struggled. Okada couldn’t hold on to the hold. He managed to get it again though, but Naito then got the ropes. Okada tried for the tombstone again, but Naito avoided it and connected on a headbutt. Naito had Okada on the metaphorical ropes. The crowd seemed to believe he could win. Naito hit Gloria and then went for the Stardust Press, but Okada avoided it. He came back with the Air Raid Crash on the knee and the F5 neckbreaker. Both movez got nearfalls. Naito rolled through a Rainmaker attempt and then hit a spinning slide slam. They traded forearms. Naito avoided another Rainmaker. Naito avoided another Rainmaker and got a cradle variation for a nearfall. Okada hit a dropkick to the back of the head and then a tombstone. He called for the Rainmaker again, but Naito again avoided it. Tombstone from Okada! RAINMAKER: 1…2…3!

These two have great chemistry, and they managed to take the crowd on the ride that you would expect out of a PPV title match. There were genuinely a couple of moments where it looked like Naito could win. Naito still has some things to work on. He didn’t really sell the injured knee after he got caught up in a turnbuckle. Luckily, Okada’s work on his neck kept the match together. While this was nowhere near the best matches Okada and Tanahashi had with each other and other opponents in main events last year, this was definitely a top-notch match.
Match Rating: ****

Shinsuke Nakamura© vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi [IWGP Intercontinental Championship]
Stan Hansen came out before the match. Marty Friedman was a surprise guest; he performed Tanahashi’s entrance music. What a world we live in. Nakamura had a bunch of pole dancers on the ramp doing what they do while he made his entrance. Seriously, what a fucking world we live in.

Tanahashi went for a diving cross body early, but Nakamura caught him with a knee. Nakamura was going after Tana’s midsection after that. Tana caught him with a dragon screw legwhip. Tana started going after Nakamura’s knees. Tana avoided a leaping knee drop from the apron, and Tana crashed to the floor. Tana then hit High Fly Flow to the floor. Nakamura seemingly got some serious whiplash on that landing. Back in the ring, Nakamura caught Tana in a triangle. Tana came back with a Boston Crab. Nakamura hit a backstabber. They traded a billion forearms, give or take. Nakamura hit a Boma Ye to the back of the head. Tana reversed a Boma Ye attempt into a Sling Blade. Nakamura reversed a powerbomb into a Codebreaker. Tana came back and hit a High Fly Flow: 1…2…NO!!! Nakamura caught him with a leaping knee and then hit a diving Boma Ye. He followed it up with another BOMA YE: 1…2…NO! The reaction to the very rare finisher kickouts was not what I expected. They traded forearms. Tana hit another dragon screw. Tana then locked in the Texas Cloverleaf. He got the submission in a really high angle. Nakamura briefly escaped before turning it into a modified Styles Clash. Tana followed it up with two High Fly Flows: 1…2…3

I can see some people thinking that I’m being a little too harsh on this match (and the show in general), I once again felt that this match did not meet the sky high expectations I have from NJPW. With that said, this match felt like it was being wrestled at the semi-main event level, and the semi-main felt like it was wrestled at the main event level. Thus, if those two matches simply switched places, I probably would have had less of a problem with this match.
Match Rating: ***3/4

The 411: Having experienced a majority of the big NJPW iPPVs in 2013, I could not help but be a bit disappointed in NJPW’s biggest show of 2014. While I appreciate NJPW treating this show like their own Wrestlemania, I noticed that NJPW fell into a lot of the same traps that WWE falls into. NJPW does not put a lot of the undercard matches in a position to succeed, and as a result, a lot of the lesser titles feel completely insignificant. The show was overly reliant on letting the top three or four matches at the top save the show instead of having a well-round card that has a great flow. Overall, the show is good enough, but we all know that NJPW can do much, much better.

Going forward, I think NJPW could truly benefit from tightening up their shows and putting more emphasis on the junior heavyweights. The juniors divisions have felt quite lame for a while. While there is a lot of talent in the singles and tag divisions, they do not seem to be a priority in any way shape or form. The strong exception to that was actually at this show with Devitt defending the junior singles belt third from the top. However, that felt like it happened more because of Devitt’s rise as a main event character as opposed to the championship being important. The difference is subtle but important.

Also, as NJPW goes into the new year, I am begging them to reevaluate which gaijin they bring over. While it’s truly great to see Devitt, Anderson, Shelley, and now the Bucks flourish in NJPW, there are still way too many lame wrestlers being flown out for the majority of the shows. Shelton Benjamin has been a complete failure and needs to go away. While the Killer Elite Squad have gotten over to an extent, they’ve yet to show any sign of becoming remarkable performers. I guess I would be willing to give them another chance if more high profile teams are booked in the heavyweight tag division. I know Alex Koslov and Rocky Romero are respected performers, (and that they are certainly competent performers) I think their act has run their course in NJPW. I would either want them to change something up or at least see NJPW cycle them out more often. There are so many great talents in the world, and NJPW seemingly would not like to take chances on many of them. It’s frustrating and adversely affecting the product.

Thanks everybody for reading! You can send feedback to my Twitter or to my email address: [email protected] Also, feel free to check out my own wrestling website, FreeProWrestling.com. Also, check out my Best of Chikara blog and an archive of all my 411 video reviews.

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TJ Hawke

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