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Hawke’s NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 13 Review

January 5, 2019 | Posted by TJ Hawke
NJPW WrestleKingdom 13
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Hawke’s NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 13 Review  

My list of Five Star Matches.

My reviews of every G1 Climax Final.


January 4, 2019
Tokyo, Japan


Yuji Nagata, Jeff Cobb, & David Finlay vs. CHAOS (Chuck Taylor, Trent?, & Hirooki Goto) vs. Bullet Club (Adam Page, Marty Scurll, & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Harry Smith, & Lance Archer) vs. Togi Makabe, Ryusuke Taguchi, & Toru Yano

This was a gauntlet match to determine challengers for the NEVER Openweight Trios Championship.

Gauntlet matches are pretty much always underwhelming at best and trash at worst. This was thankfully much closer to the former than the latter, but that still is not exactly anything to write home about. It also was frustrating that it replaced the always infinitely charming RAMBO contest and that Goto was stuck being a jobber goon in this one when he’s had the best Wrestle Kingdom match two years running.

With that in mind though, there still were some obvious positives about this one. Yuji Nagata got to work a proper match for the first time in a while on Wrestle Kingdom. We got to see Chuck Taylor fucking work a Wrestle Kingdom match. Wild. It was cool to see Nagata and Suzuki go at it again at Wrestle Kingdom with their strong if not storied history at this event. The Funky Weapon came out in rugby gear for some reason. And we got to see a victorious Toru Yano. All good things. This was fine. (**1/2)


Kota Ibushi vs. Will Ospreay

This was for Kota’s NEVER Openweight Championship.

They had two options with this one. They could either do an insane stunt show where each guy pulls out all of their best stuff and goes a million miles an hour the whole match. Or they could do what they did. And go for a more methodically paced match designed to come across as some epic.

On one hand, you kind of have to hand it to NJPW for creating excellent satire. These guys are so over the top in their facial expressions and body language that it becomes absolutely hilarious watching them trying to portray this epic contest. A lot of the action was cool of course, but it was undercut so much by how this match was being presented as some dramatic contest when everything they did between the movez seemed goofy. It was a very easy watch though and an entertaining way to start the show. (***)


Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & Shingo Takagi) vs. Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)

This was for Suzuki-gun’s IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.

These multi-team junior tag title matches at Wrestle Kingdom over the years are almost always not particularly satisfying. They are seemingly always worked in a manner designed to pack in as much action as possible without giving anyone a reason to care about any of it.

That is basically what happened here, and the results were as pedestrian as you would expect. It was not bad at all, but there was nothing to get invested in. Matches like this on big shows further cement this division’s status as meaningless. [LIJ won after Takagi gave Sho a Last Falconry.(**1/2)


Tomohiro Ishii vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

This was for Ishii’s RPW British Heavyweight Championship.

Now, this was real fucking good. These two have now had so many battles in NJPW and RPW, and they worked the exact kind of match given that context. They knew each other so well so they were both simultaneously ready for each other at all points while also constantly battling to find openings to expose.

The centerpiece to the match was that Zack managed to connect on some big stuff on Ishii’s right arm. From there, Zack had to scratch and claw to get more offense in on Ishii’s now injured arm. Ishii was ready for all of Zack’s usual stuff so the latter could not settle or lazily rely on stuff that works on his everyday opponent. He add to earn every inch…which made his eventual submission victory all the more satisfying. GREAT match. (****)


Guerrillas Of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) vs. Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson)

This was for GOD’s IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.

It is really hard to care about these triple threat tag title matches. The action just runs all together, and ti feels like none of it means anything. I don’t know. They tried hard? (Sanada finished a Buck with a moonsault to pick up the tag belts.] (**1/4)


Cody Rhodes vs. Juice Robinson

This was for Cody’s IWGP United States Championship.

The bright side was that they managed to top their Wrestle Kingdom match from 2017. The bad news was that was pretty much the lowest bar to get over.

This was a fine and mostly inoffensive midcard match. Juice worked really hard, and it was cool that he got to win a singles belt at a Wrestle Kingdom given his story. Cody though just has never been nor will he ever be the type of guy to have a good match in this position. (**1/2)


KUSHIDA vs. Taiji Ishimori

This was for KUSHIDA’s IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.

KUSHIDA and Ishimori went in there and delivered a rock-solid midcard battle.  KUSHIDA went after the left arm right away and was having a lot of success with that. Ishimori would not be deterred though and managed to never really fall behind in any significant way from beginning to end.

KUSHIDA tried to go after the newly injured arm throughout, but he was just not able to do enough damage with that strategy before Ishimori was able to put him away. This was probably far more restrained than most would expect from these two, but it worked well for the spot that it was in. (***1/4)


Jay White vs. Kazuchika Okada

This was a well done match for the most part. The awkward portion was that it really was a “grudge” or “revenge” match, and Okada’s style and body language just has never fit in well with that type of match. He’s way too calm of a worker (which of course does work great in certain situations), but any attempts to convey a sense of genuine desire to kick someone’s ass often falls flat instead.

That being said everything was going along as it needed to do. Okada was mostly running through White (and Gedo for that matter). White picked his spots though, delivered some bigger movez (suplex from the ring to onto the apron for example), and managed to keep himself from falling too far behind.

That proved to be all he needed to give himself a chance to win. Okada fell into his own trap, as he was content to do one of his finisher reversal/square dance routines at the end of the match. While Okada managed to connected on his rolling lariat at one point, he waited too long to finish White off with the proper Rainmaker which gave the Knife Pervert an opening to finish Okada off first. This was a big win for White. (***1/4)


Chris Jericho vs. Tetsuya Naito

This was for Jericho’s IWGP Intercontinental Championship.

Jericho has been working hard during his sporadic NJPW matches, but he does not seem to be really capable of delivering the kinds of contests that should be considered great or even interesting beyond the uniqueness factor of Jericho working NJPW in the first place. He’s tried to compensate for not being able to physically deliver great matches by relying on weak brawling and plunder spots.

That was mostly what happened here again.

They brawled on the floor. A Singapore can was a key component of the match. They brawl on the commentation station (shaped like a table). They did more Singapore cane spots. They built to a big sequence involving chairs. Naito did the Codebreaker. More plunder spots. A low blow. They kicked out of finishers. Then a belt shot/Destino combo gave Naito the win.

All of those short cuts, smoke, mirrors, and cheap spots just do not make for interesting pro wrestling matches. If that is all Jericho is capable of doing anymore, then it is time for his NJPW run to end and soon. (**1/2)


Kenny Omega vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

This was for Omega’s IWGP Heavyweight Championship.

In what has to be one of the most pleasantly surprising developments in recent NJPW history, this was one of the most interestingly worked main events in NJPW in what seems like forever. Did it have its flaws? Oh yea. Was it a mixed bag? OH YEA. It was still interesting though for the ideas utilized, and the way they worked together which is a great improvement upon the past couple of years.

The first part of the match was all about establishing that Kenny Omega was infinitely better than Okada. He dominated the match with ease. If anything, he did it so casually that it was kind of boring to watch. The silver lining though was that it set up things for later in the match in a meaningful way.

A key difference between Tanahashi and Omega was showcased during this portion of the contest. Omega was willing to less “civil” things to win pro wrestling. He did not follow the proper “etiquette” of how one is expected to conduct themselves in a Wrestle Kingdom main event.

The key point that illustrated this was that Kenny pulled out a table to use. Tanahashi ended up being the person to have the opportunity to use it. He looked at the table. But he could not bring himself to use Chekhov’s table early on. Even with being as overmatched as he was, he still could not use it.

Tanahashi sensed that the usual would not do though. He desperately hung onto Omega’s leg to connect on a gnarly dragon screw (and of course, Omega had to sell the knee like it was going for to fall off at first only to be doing deadlift powerbombs a few minutes later – he really is so annoying sometimes). He even brought back his Styles Clash for the first time since 2014 (heavy shot at Taube for saying he doesn’t do cool movez).

And then in the big moment, he was even willing to use that table that was set up earlier in the match. Because a table that is set up in the first act of match will surely have someone go through said table before it is all said and done.

Omega was placed on the table that was on the floor. Tanahashi set up for the High Fly Flow. He went for it. But Kenny got off the table, and Tanahashi crashed through it instead. For Tanahashi, using a table in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom while competing for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship would just be rude. He recognized that he had to do that though if he wanted to win and paid the price. It was beautiful.

From there though, things still managed to be more even. Omega had lost the firm advantage he had going for him for so long. Tanahashi built up momentum, and he eventually managed to put Omega away with one of many High Fly Flows.

The match was not all that it could be and ending up in a situation where Tanahashi fucking wins the belt back in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom is so groan-inducing. It was mostly interesting to watch play out though and clearly exceeded rational expectations of what these two would do together. (***1/4)

The final score: review Good
The 411
A solid stadium show for NJPW! One of their better big shows in many years.