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Kevin’s NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 13 Review

January 4, 2019 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
NJPW WrestleKingdom 13
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Kevin’s NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 13 Review  

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 13
January 4th, 2019 | Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan | Attendance: 38,162

It’s the most anticipated night of the year for New Japan fans. Their biggest show of the year happens to also be the first. The card has some interesting pieces (the possibility of Tanahashi ending a dull Omega reign, Ibushi vs. Ospreay, Ishii vs. Sabre), so I’m hoping for a strong show. I loved WK9, thought WK11 was great, enjoyed WK12, and WK10 was kind of just there. Let’s see what 2019 has in store for us.

Number One Contender’s Gauntlet: CHAOS (Brest Friends and Hirooki Goto) vs. David Finlay, Jeff Cobb & Yuji Nagata vs. Hangman Page, Marty Scurll, and Yujiro Takahashi vs. Most Violent Players (Ryusuke Taguchi, Togi Makabe, and Toru Yano) vs. Suzuki-Gun (The Killer Elite Squad and Minoru Suzuki)
I miss the RAMBO. Our NEVER Openweight Champions (The Guerrillas of Destiny and Taiji Ishimori) are busy tonight so I’m assuming the winners get the annual New Year Dash title shot. PIETER came out with Yujiro, making this show an instant classic already. His team opened against Nagata and co. It was basic tag stuff until Yujiro lost to a David Finlay rollup in 4:43 following some miscommunication with Chas Owens outside. Gedo, you can book the rest of the show however you want, but how dare you make PIETER leave in under five minutes.

The CHAOS group was out next. Hirooki Goto looked miserable. He did get to be the focal point of this portion of the match, but you could clearly tell he didn’t give a damn. The Best Friends seemed much happier to be here, though, so they gave a better effort. I appreciated getting to see Cobb against Goto like we did during one of the US Tours. Interestingly, this one ended when David “King of Rollups” Finlay rolled up Chuck Taylor to win this section in 7:31.

Minoru Suzuki is in the Hirooki Goto boat of falling down to the pre-show. However, he always looks miserable, so there’s no difference. Forget Goto vs. Cobb, this portion of the match gave me Suzuki vs. Nagata. That’s always a good thing. The camera nearly missed it, but Finlay tried to remain the rollup king on Lance Archer. It didn’t work and he fell to the Killer Bomb in 2:44.

The final tam out was the Most Violent Players. I like the idea that CHAOS guys are teaming elsewhere, unless I missed something. It gives variety. Suzuki-Gun attacked as Makabe’s team was making their entrance. Don Callis ran scared from Suzuki during the brawl outside. Yano and Taguchi made for a hilarious pairing and putting the always serious Togi Makabe with them is a great idea. We got some good near falls late, before Yano rolled up Davey Boy Smith Jr. to win in 8:08. Overall, the match went 23:06 (my math could be off, it’s early). It was good fun, similar to the RAMBO. [**¾]

Before the main show began, we got a “Best of 2018” video package. That was followed by the announcement of tour dates in 2019. The notable ones include the Best of the Super Juniors Final being held in Sumo Hall, the G1 Climax 29 beginning in Dallas, an August 31st London show, and the fact that they’re running the Tokyo Dome on both 1/4 AND 1/5 in 2020. The last one sounds like overkill, but we’ll see how it goes.

NEVER Openweight Championship: Kota Ibushi [c] vs. Will Ospreay
Lots of hype for this one. Two athletically gifted guys who had some great interactions during the tag leading up to this and way back during Mania weekend in 2016. Ospreay may rank at the top of my least favorite wrestlers/people list, but he can have phenomenal matches when against someone special (KUSHIDA, Hiromu, etc.) and Ibushi is that kind of guy. Right off the bat, these guys moved at a wild pace. They had each other scouted, like Ospreay kicking Ibushi during his Golden Star moonsault. While the early athletic stuff was fluid as hell, it only made for a solid match. This didn’t truly get going until the physical stuff kicked in. Ospreay took a sick knee at one point, though the replay showed he had plenty of time to avoid it. The knee seemed to wake Ospreay up, leading to a tree of Joey Lawrence sequence where Ospreay just kicked the shit out of Ibushi’s head. We got a cool callback to their Korakuen Hall tag from last month before entering the finishing sequence. Ospreay took it with a vicious elbow to the back of the head and Storm Breaker in 18:13. Great start to the show. The exchanges were strong and the gradual progression to something more violent. A few points underwhelmed, but this ultimately ruled. [****]

As always, I must mention the booking. Poor Ibushi loses another big match. I’m no Will Ospreay fan but I wish Gedo took his much hailed “long term booking “strategy seriously outside of his top guys. Will and the Bucks moved to the heavyweight division and won the titles without much of a struggle. Not everything needs to be that way, but once in a while would be nice. The titles change hands like they mean nothing. Anyway, enough about that, let’s get back to a show that has been fun so far.

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru [c] vs. BUSHI & Shingo vs. Roppongi 3K w/ Rocky Romero
Kanemaru has to be the worst wrestler on this entire card. Suzuki-Gun attacked before the bell because *Mark Henry Voice* THAT’S WHAT THEY DO! The match was relatively fine, but got bumped up a notch by the interaction between SHO and Shingo. Yes! Book the Jr. division around them and Ishimori going forward. Of course, if Hiromu can return, he should be the leader. Shingo and SHO had some awesome powerhouse exchanges. I dug how we got the BUSHI mist and the Kanemaru whiskey spit at the same time. Shingo hit two Pumping Busters that should’ve ended it. Instead, SHO kicked out and fell to Last of the Dragon in 6:50. That was a sprint and it was one that worked. They packed a lot of action into the short time. Shingo looked like a star. [***]

RevPro British Heavyweight Championship: Tomohiro Ishii [c] vs. Zack Sabre Jr. w/ TAKA Michinoku
NJPW went all out for this. RevPro official Chris Roberts officiated this match in an NJPW shirt. I like it. Also, I’ll never tire of TAKA introducing Zack. The G1 Special in USA match these two was tremendous (****½). Their G1 matches were strong (***¾ and ****). Sabre targeted Ishii’s right arm. It helps negate his strikes, lariat, and Brainbuster. Smart work. We often see him mix up his submissions to whatever body part is available, but he was all about the arm here. He baited Ishii into strikes, looking to catch the arm and work it more. However, Ishii learned from past matches and had plenty of counters ready. Sabre caught Ishii in the insanely named “Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than the Last; The Inexorable March of Progress Will Lead Us All to Happiness” double armbar stretch to win the title in 11:30. I loved this. It was different from everything else so far. They gave us great technical wrestling and counters. I could’ve used more drama down the stretch late to make it special. [****¼]

Sabre was awarded the new RevPro Title, which looks much better than the original.

IWGP Tag Team Championship: The Guerrillas of Destiny [c] w/ Bad Luck Fale and Jado vs. EVIL and SANADA vs. The Young Bucks 
The World Tag League is already the least important time of the year for NJPW, but having the winners not even get their own title shot just makes it mean that much less. Remixed theme for the champs, who came out with what seemed to be knockoff Spider-Man and Venom masks. SANADA has a bad beard and EVIL has British Bulldog hair. Anyway, I appreciated how Matt’s back problems continue to be a storyline a year later. EVIL beat him up on the aisle and he sold it well. Tama Tonga continued to push the “I’m a good guy” story. He stopped his brother from breaking rules and such. Fale also stopped Jado from interfering. They got taken out with ease. The Gun Stun to cut off the Meltzer Driver was the best thing G.O.D. have ever done. Following that, Matt took the Magic Killer and a SANADA moonsault, giving us new champions in 10:15. It wasn’t all that interesting, but they had some solid action. The story of Tama and his boys not being on the same page was mildly interesting.[**¾]

IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship: Cody [c] w/ Brandi Rhodes vs. Juice Robinson
A rematch from the Tokyo Dome two years ago (**½). Juice also lost the title to Cody back at Fighting Spirit Unleashed last year (***¼). Matching colors for the married couple. Almost instantly, Brandi got involved, laying on Cody to prevent Juice from diving off onto him. She tried to manipulate Juice to hit her. Brandi did more nonsense interference and got ejected. The crowd was silent for this. You could completely hear Cody argue with the referee. Once she left, the two wrestlers traded their finishers. Juice hit Pulp Friction, but didn’t cover. Instead, he simply hit a second to no drama and won the title in 9:02. That was kind of a mess. The Brandi stuff sucked and once she left, the match didn’t exactly pick up. I do understand Cody came in a bad knee, so that probably had at least a little to do with it. [*½]

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: KUSHIDA [c] vs. Taiji Ishimori
KUSHIDA is usually a safe bet for a great match, while Taiji Ishimori was the star of the A Block in this year’s BOTSJ. Their Super J Cup match a few years ago was very good (***¾). A creepy mini KUSHIDA came out ready for the match. Ryusuke Taguchi showed up dressed as Doc Brown and put him used the time machine to give us the real KUSHIDA. So, I found it hard to come up with much to write about this match. They worked some solid wrestling at the start, giving Ishimori the chance to showcase sides of his game we don’t often see. The pace quickened later as Ishimori missed a 450 and got caught in a smooth armbar. Honestly, this was very good wrestling. That being said, it also kind of just happened. They had some late back and forth before Ishimori won the title with the Bloody Cross in 11:07. As stated, a good wrestling match, just one that was largely forgettable. Nothing wrong with it, but I’ll probably forget it even happened by the end of the show. [***¼]

Jay White w/ Gedo vs. Kazuchika Okada
Jay beat Okada to open the G1 last year (***¾) and then took Gedo as his new corner man. OH MY GOD! IT’S THE RAINMAKER! Okada went back to his normal theme, busted out the old coat and had the money falling from the ceiling. AND HE BROUGHT BACK THE SHORTS! Strap him up, Gedo! A lot of the early stuff in this match followed the usual Okada formula. Okada does it because it works and makes for a solid match layout. They sprinkled in the involvement of Gedo, with Okada getting physical vengeance on him more than once. The Rainmaker pose got one hell of a reaction. After some very good exchanges, Okada hit the Rainmaker. He held on for a second, but White was prepared and hit the Blade Runner from out of nowhere. That was enough to end this in 14:18. Yes! I loved that finish. The layout of this made it seem like Okada was on the road back to being the dominant Rainmaker we’ve all come to know. And then, just like that, Jay White ended him. Even with all his glitz and glamour back, White remained a step ahead. [****]

IWGP Intercontinental Championship No Disqualifications Match: Chris Jericho [c] vs. Tetsuya Naito
Jericho took the title from Naito at Dominion (***¾). I still say Tetsuya Naito needs to be the top guy and not dicking around with the IC Title anymore. Naito learned his lesson from their previous match and jumped him before the bell. That set the stage for a war. Jericho brought out a kendo stick and the DDT he gave Naito on the table looked absolutely brutal. They kept up that intense level throughout the whole match. Both men threw themselves into the bumps and spots. Jericho had gross welts on his side from kendo stick shots (with Naito swinging like a baseball bat as a cool nod to how much he loves the sport) and Naito nearly died on a Codebreaker. The weirdest part of the match came near the end. Jericho shoved Red Shoes, who was out of position for the spot, so he could low blow Naito. Why even do that spot? You can low blow him without the ref bump in a No DQ match. It at least led to a good near fall. Destino wasn’t enough, so Naito used the title and hit another Destino to win back the title in 22:35. I’m glad they didn’t try going for 40 minutes like Omega/Jericho last year. Some moments in the end were odd, but this was a great match. It was intense, violent, and Naito seems back on track after a lackluster 2018. An absolute war. [****¼]

IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kenny Omega [c] w/ The Young Bucks vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Their only prior meeting saw Omega win the vacant IC Title in 2016 (***¾). Big campy video game style entrance for the champion. There was a sense of old vs. new in this. Omega had the Bucks at ringside, while the NJPW Dads watched from Tanahashi’s corner. When Omega brought out a table, he did so in mocking fashion. It was as if he wanted to say that his style of wrestling is superior to what Tanahashi believes in. Omega’s Terminator dive saw him take a ROUGH landing on the aisle, while Tanahashi landing on Kenny’s knees on a High Fly Flow attempt looked brutal. Kenny’s knee became the focus, as usual in Tanahashi matches. It took extra damage when Kenny seemed to tweak it, making it an even bigger target. There was a fantastic moment where Tanahashi went against his philosophy and tried putting Omega through a table, only to miss High Fly Flow and crash through it. He got too big for his britches and failed at Omega’s game. Still, Tanahashi persevered. With his back and ribs finished, and Kenny’s knee wrecked, seeing them just slap the hell out of each other was fantastic. Omega remained a dick, using Slingblade and High Fly Flow, but Tanahashi kicked out at one! Then, that absolute wild man busted out a REVERSE RANA! He added High Fly Flow for a near fall, fought off another Omega onslaught, and hit another High Fly Flow to win the title in 39:13. GO ACE! It did feature some serious overkill moments late, but as a whole, this was what I hoped for. They told a brilliant story around their ideologies and gave us some great drama, while both men took some wild bumps. The best Dome main event since WK9. [****½]

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
A notch below WK9 for best Wrestle Kingdom I’ve seen. To get the bad out of the way, it had a lull in the middle that holds it back from being an all time great show. The only match I think wasn’t any good was Cody/Juice. Everything else was at least good, and there were five bangers. Those five matches (Kota/Will, Ishii/Sabre, Okada/White, Naito/Jericho, and Omega/Tana) were all better than the best stuff on last year’s Wrestle Kingdom. A great start for NJPW in 2019 after a disappointing 2018. Looking forward to New Year Dash.