Wrestle Kingdom 12 Ratings
January 4th is the day the annual New Japan Pro Wrestling show of shows, Wrestle Kingdom. Last year's instalment included three of the best matches seen all year, across the globe, and gave us the first of the trilogy of 6* matches between Omega and Okada. This year, different opponents, but would the event deliver?
Pre-Show NJPW Rumble - Winner Masihito Kakihara
This is always good fun with some surprise entrants and returning heroes. Kitamura looks like no other Japanese wrestler and gets great reactions from the crowd so will have high hopes once he graduates the Dojo.
Justin Thunder Liger and Tiger Mask nearly lost their masks to Suzuki-Gun, and returning legends Kojima and Tenzan battled it out strongly with Cheeseburger and Masihito Kakihara, who was returning to New Japan since battling cancer.
Wearing a Takayama benefit t-shirt, in response to the recent permanent paralysis of the Japanese legend, Kakihara emerged victorious from the Rumble by finally eliminating Cheeseburger. A great feel-good start to the card!
IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag Championship - Roppongi 3K v The Young Bucks - 8/10
This was a wonderful match with some old school body manipulation for both teams, and created the story of the two backs. Both Jacksons were at their absolute best, high flying and throwing superkicks, whilst both Sho and Yo were brutal in some of their offences and really held their own against the tag veterans.
After sustaining far too much back punishment from apron dragon suplexes, strong kicks, a Meltzer Driver and then a Sharpshooter, Yo finally taps out and hands The Bucks their 7th NJPW Jr Tag Championships.
NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Championships Gauntlet Match - 7/10
Elgin & War Machine vs Suzuki Gun vs CHAOS vs Bullet Club vs Taguchi Japan
This match was everything you expected it to be; plenty of brawling, ref distractions, false finishes and signature move after signature move.
Zack Sabre Jr choked out Raymond Rowe to eliminate War Machine before Yano managed to take out Taichi and then roll up Taguchi after Taguchi pulled off a picture perfect impersonation of previous CHAOS leader Shinsuke Nakamura.
The final two teams came down to Bullet Club and CHAOS, with Ishii manhandling Bad Luck Fale, and Tama Tonga performing a 'Stun Gun' on a moonsaulting Beretta. This wasn't enough, however, and Beretta managed to finish Tonga with the 'Dude Buster' for CHAOS to become the new champions and second title change of the night.
Cody vs Kota Ibushi - 7.5/10
These two guys are two of the very best in the world at what they do. Ibushi is a fan favourite who has a tremendous move set and ability to sell any offence.
Cody is a natural heel and when out there with Brandy, illicit large amounts of hate from the crowd for their antics. Cody delivering a 'CrossRhodes' to Ibushi off the apron to the floor really gave Ibushi sympathy for his neck given his past trouble, and they went back and forth throughout the match.
After kicking out of a "Last Ride' and a Straight Jacket German Suplex, Cody finally succumbed to the 'Kamigoye' knee strike and Ibushi moves on in NJPW.
IWGP Tag Team Championship
Killer Elite Squad vs LIJ (EVIL and Sanada) - 7/10
World Tag League winners LIJ were pitted against the reigning champions of Davey Boy Smith Jr and Lance Archer. Tag veterans against new boys on the block.
KES brutalised their opponents and the assorted Young Lions on the side of the ring repeatedly throughout this match, with Los Ingobernables de Japon coming back into the match later on through steely determination. There were some crazy feats of athleticism in this match from all competitors, including a 'Spanish Fly' off the top turnbuckle by EVIL and Archer.
Davey Boy Smith Jr really showed intent and physically in this match but ultimately it wasn't enough. Sanada kicked out of a 'Killer Bomb' before combining with EVIL for the 'Magic Killer' and the win for LIJ.
NEVER Openweight Championship
Hirooki Goto vs Minoru Suzuki - 8/10
Minoru Suzuki is a fully fledged machine. At nearly 50 years of age, the former Pancrase champion and inspiration behind the 'King" character in the Tekken series is brutal in his punches, forearms, chairs, dropkicks and submissions.
Goto had to survive slap after slap, headbutts, sleepers and guillotine chokes before summoning enough energy for an avalanche 'Ushigoroshi' and two 'GTR's'.
Interference from Suzuki-Gun didn't help and Goto was finally able to beat Suzuki in his third attempt in 2017 and recapture the NEVER Openweight title. As per match stipulation, Suzuki then had to shave his own head in the ring, shamed into it after losing the match.
IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship
Marty Scurll vs Will Ospreay vs Hiromu Takahashi vs Kushida - 9/10
This match was exactly what you would expect from some of the best cruiserweights in the world. Marty Scurll's entrance as a giant raven, high spot after high spot. Every man was given the time to shine in this and get all their stuff in, as well as tell a story.
Ospreay managed a moonsault from at least 15 feet in the air, and was able to tell the story of Scurll vs Ospreay throughout the match, with nothing being certain aside from Death, Taxes and Scurll over Ospreay. Scurll was the consummate villain from the beginning, letting the other 3 fight whilst waiting on the outside, taping Takahashi to the railings and throwing powder into Kushida's eyes.
The match was all action from the get go and did not stop to take a breath until Marty's comeuppance finally came when a missed umbrella shot to Will led to a 'Spanish Fly' and an 'Os Cutter' to finish the Villain off, regain the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship and finally break the curse.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Jay White - 6.5/10
The tempo of this bout was slowed down considerably from the previous matches on the card, and was necessary after the breathless fatal four way before them. It also fed from the knee injury to Tanahashi by Switchblade Jay White and him wanting to see whether 'The Ace' of NJPW could still go.
The match built and built with White dealing out punishment until Tanahashi could take no more abuse and after multiple 'Switchblades' to Switchblade himself and several frog splashes, Hiroshi Tanahashi was victorious and remained IWGP Intercontinental Champion.
IWGP US Championship
Kenny Omega vs Chris Jericho - 10/10
It's finally here. Alpha vs Omega. This is what we've all been waiting for if we are honest with ourselves. Y2J didn't like it when CM Punk called himself the 'Best in the World' and doesn't like it now. The creation and build of this match was immense and every hope was that the match would deliver too. It really did!
Both guys threw everything they had at each other, with both taking massive bumps, strikes and knees to the face, chair shots to the head and going through tables. Jericho did everything possible to ensure the Tokyo crowd hated him, from striking the ref and putting his son in the 'Walls of Jericho', flipping off the crowd and insulting them.
Omega was at his gutsy and destructive best again and dealt out masses of punishment in the final stages of the match, before a 'One Winged Angel' on a steel chair finished Y2J off for good.
Is this the end to the feud of Winnipeg, we shall see.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Kazuchika Okada vs Tetsuya Naito - 9/10
The final match of the night and the co-main event of the evening. Okada who has recently become the longest reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion facing the G1 Climax 2017 winner Tetsuya Naito. The story going into the match was whether anyone could beat Okada for the championship. Naito had beaten Okada back in 2016 for the title, and Omega beat Okada at the G1, so the odds for an upset victory were closer than previous Okada matches.
Both wrestlers really performed, starting slow and building the crowd into the match, with Naito teasing and pleasing the crowd in equal measures. Okada is a scary athlete at 6'4 and really showed why NJPW has built their company around him. Back and forth offence and both men kicking out of the other's finishers led to a final spinning 'Tombstone' by Okada and a 'Rainmaker' with the purpose to put down Naito.
Overall, a great way to end WrestleKingdom 12, which was frantic and fast-paced for large portions of the night, with bouts of the night going to the fatal 4 way and the US title match.