SPOILER ALERT. The following article includes detailed results from the Wrestle Kingdom 9 pay-per-view event that aired live at 2am on January 4th. The show will be replayed later today on PPV. The match results start about a quarter of the way down the page, so you can read a spoiler-free review if you want (recommended, since the show is too good to not watch it yourself).
What can you say about the debut presentation of Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling promotion, the New Japan Pro Wrestling show, Wrestle Kingdom 9, which aired on pay-per-view in North America for the first time ever last night? I think the closing words of commentator Jim “JR” Ross sum up the event pretty well: After having watched this show, “I will never be ashamed to say that I am a wrestling fan.”
In terms of in-ring product, the show was stellar from bell to bell, with all matches ranging between good and amazing – no duds whatsoever. The commentary team of Ross and Matt Striker were at the top of their game, educating fans to the NJPW product, giving them background on the wrestlers and setting the storyline context for the matches, and peppering their commentary with references and comparisons to more familiar products. Production-wise, the look and feel of the show rivalled anything that WWE has put on at its marquee events.
Perhaps the only negative comment were some technical issues – Rogers’ HD PPV feed didn’t work, so this writer had to order the show on both HD and Standard definition and is fighting for a refund, and there are comments online that the @Flipps stream experienced some buffering issues.
But, to borrow a wrestling phrase, the bottom line is this: even if you’re not a Japanese wrestling fan, you should order the replay and watch this show. It was, simply, too good to miss.
*** SPOILERS AHEAD ***
Wrestle Kingdom – Match Results
Pre-PPV match: Yuji Nagata won a 15-man New Japan Rumble featuring a number of NJPW stars. This wasn’t shown on PPV, only on the NJPW streaming service.
Match 1: reDRagon (Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly) (c) vs. Forever Hooligans (Alex Koslov and Rocky Romero) vs. Time Splitters (Alex Shelley and Kushida) vs. The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) – 4-way tag team match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
This was a hot opener, reminiscent of the fast action that TNA’s X-Division matches used to deliver back in the day. This served as a good opener in particular for the North American fans, given that all of these teams have been seen on TV here in TNA or Ring of Honor. The Japanese crowd were into this one too, even throwing in the occasional chant, which I understand is a rarity (as was pointed out during the show, Japanese fans are generally quiet during matches, other than to show appreciation for an impressive sequence/spot or a demonstration of real “fighting spirit”). Action was too quick to call, but Ross and Striker did a great job of it (as an aside, Bah Gawd it was good to hear JR again). After a number of double-team moves, reDRagon hit their Enter the Dragon finisher to get the win and defend their titles.
Winners and still IWGP Tag Team Champions: reDRagon (Fish and O’Reilly)
Match 2: Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Jeff Jarrett and Yujiro Takahashi) w/ Karen Jarrett and Scott D’Amore vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima and Tomoaki Honma
For those of you that don’t know, the Bullet Club is like NJPW’s version of the nWo, an invading faction, this time invading with their American values and antics. Some dirty tactics by the Bullet Club quickly gave them the advantage. At one point, Karen Jarrett distracted the referee so that Jeff could hit El-Kabong on Honma – but he accidentally ended up smashing his partner Takahashi. After a solid tag match, Honma hit a top-rope standing headbutt, which apparently he hits about as often as Ric Flair hits a top-rope move, to get the win.
Winners: Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima and Tomoaki Honma
Match 3: Naomichi Marufuji, TMDK (Mikey Nicholls and Shane Haste), and Toru Yano vs. Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith, Jr., Lance Archer), Shelton X Benjamin and Takashi Iizuka
The importance of the annual January 4 Dome show to Japanese wrestling was noted here, since TMDK and Marufuji are Pro Wrestling NOAH stars who were invited as a means to cross-promote other companies. A solid tag match that highlighted everyone’s strengths, including the power of KES and aerobatics of Benjamin, all of whom got good time in the ring. TMDK’s team ended up winning the match in fairly short order, which the announcers noted as being a big deal, since they beat NJPW guys.
Winners: Naomichi Marufuji, TMDK, and Toru Yano
Match 4: Minoru Suzuki vs. Kazushi Sakuraba – UWFI rules Match (finish by knockout, submission, or referee stoppage)
This one is apparently a lifelong dream match, pitting two MMA legends against one another. The story of this match was that Sakuraba injured Suzuki’s arm with a kimura submission, but Suzuki wouldn’t quit and continued to fight through the pain. He could barely defend himself, and Sakuraba kept wailing on him with huge kicks. But Suzuki kept fighting back, using his right hand to deliver some hard strikes, and ultimately clamping on a standing rear naked choke hold. This was enough to put Sakarabu out, and though he never gave up, the referee had no choice to call it. After the match, the two shook hands in a sign of mutual respect.
Winner by ref stoppage: Minoru Suzuki
Match 5: Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs. Togi Makabe – NEVER Openweight Championship
This was a “slobberknocker” of a brawl between two big guys built like brick s***houses. It reminded me of the movie Pacific Rim just in terms of the size and power with which these guys hit each other. But faster, and they grunted louder. This was incredibly fun to watch, with these guys bashing each other silly. At one point, Ishii hit an impressive superplex, but then got flattened by a huge tree-limb clothesline. Makabe hit a Samoan Drop type move off the top, but surprisingly, only got a two-count. A lot of chops and slaps and headbutts. In the end, Makabe knocked Ishii down, climbed to the top rope and hit a big flying knee to the back of Ishii’s head to get the win and capture the championship.
Winner, and new NEVER Openweight Champion – Togi Makabe
Match 6: Ryusuke Taguchi (c) vs. Kenny Omega w/ the Young Bucks – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Now a Bullet Club member, Omega looks completely different from the young, fresh-faced kid he was when SLAM! Wrestling first interviewed him; now, he’s reminiscent of Brian Pillman in his Loose Cannon days. His villainous ways showed early on, where he capitalized on the Bucks distracting the referee, allowing him to spray Taguchi in the eyes with some body spray. Omega took control of the match after that, nearly getting the pin on a few occasions, sometimes thanks to the Bucks’ interference. Omega tried for a running powerbomb into the corner, but Taguchi reversed it in to a hurancarana, sending Omega face-first into the corner. Taguchi was going for a missile dropkick, but Omega caught him with one mid-air. After a frenzied sequence of attempted finishers, Omega put Taguchi away with the One-Winged Angel to capture the title.
Winner, and new IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion: Kenny Omega
Match 7: Bullet Club (Doc Gallows and “Machine Gun” Karl Anderson) (c) w/ the Bullet Babe and Tamatonga vs. Meiyu Tag (Hirooki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata) – IWGP Tag Team Championship match
Some early miscommunication between childhood friends Goto and Shibata allowed the Bullet Club to take an early advantage. Watching Gallows really makes you realize how badly WWE dropped the ball on using him as a monster big man. The story here was whether the challengers could win the big one, and they did whatever they could to show that they could. But the size of the Americans was a pretty hard challenge to overcome. Just when it looked like they had Anderson down, Gallows put both of them down with a huge double-clothesline. The local heroes fought back valiantly, though, and after a massive kick by Shibata to a downed Gallows, the big man was down for the three count.
Winners, and new IWGP Tag Team Champions: Hiroki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata
Match 8: A.J. Styles vs. Tetsuya Naito
Since joining the Bullet Club, Styles has drawn a lot of controversy, having broken two opponents’ necks with his finishing move, the Styles Clash. This one started off hot, with Naito avoiding a Styles moonsault on the floor, to deliver a running dropkick from the apron onto the floor. But it wasn’t long before Styles took control, working on Naito’s legs. Styles was in control for a while, until Naito turned the tide with a running DDT. The advantage went back and forth, with both men hitting some impressive moves. Naito was looking to end things with a Stardust Press, but got caught and nearly taken out with a leglock submission. Desperate, Naito reversed a Styles Clash and dumped AJ over the top rope to the floor. As AJ climbed back in, he looked like easy pickings. But he was able to reverse a top rope move, and hit a Super Styles Clash off the top to get the win.
Winner: AJ Styles
Match 9: Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Kota Ibushi – IWGP Intercontinental Championship match
Nakamura is this writer’s favourite Japanese wrestler, and this match was a good example of why – he’s so good at blending strong style wrestling with comedy, dirty tactics, and hard action. Too much action to call in this one. Highlights included Ibushi hitting a beautiful moonsault from the top rope onto the floor and later a lightning-quick running kick to the face. Later, in a stellar move, Ibushi leaped to the top rope, and grabbed Nakamura, who was standing on the apron facing the crowd, and heaved him over the top rope into a German suplex – simply tremendous. Nakamura blasted him with some elbows to the head, and then finally ended things with a giant running knee to successfully defend his title. Match of the night, in this writer’s opinion, and a perfect way to create a new star in Ibushi while still maintaining Nakamura as strong champion.
Winner, and still IWGP Intercontinental Champion: Shinsuke Nakamura
Match 11: Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. “Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada – IWGP Heavyweight Championship match
This match was billed as the present versus the future of Japanese wrestling, with the younger challenger holding one win more than Tanahashi in their series so far. After drawing evenly in a couple of exchanges, Okada got aggressive with a huge forearm smash in the corner. The match spilled to the very long entrance ramp, where Okada caught Tanahashi with a huge Spicolli Driver. Back in the ring, Tanahashi recovered, but Okada was a just a shade quicker than the champ, who went into the match with a bad back and neck. Standing up, Okada was able to get the better of his veteran opponent with forearm smashes and uppercuts. Later, he out-maneuvered the champ in order to hit him with a top rope elbow smash. A confident Okada looked to put the champ down with a Rainmaker Clothesline, but Tanahashi was able to duck it, and then take out Okada’s leg with a Dragon Screw Legwhip. His leg injured, Okada rolled to the outside, but then got hit with a standing High Fly Flow (frogsplash) by Tanahashi who flew off the top, over the steel barricade and deep into the aisle – stellar. On fire, Tanahashi took the action back into the ring where he hit Okada with a Tombstone piledriver, then a pair of HFFs – but only got a two count! A gutsy Okada refused to go down, and in a great sequence, Tanahashi tried to hit Okada with his own Rainmaker Clothesline, but Okada ducked it and hit it himself – but only for two! A nice spot saw Tanahashi reverse a Tombstone attempt into a rollup, but he couldn’t hold Okada down. Then Tanahashi started chopping Okada repeatedly, finally bringing the challenger down to his knees. A number of pinfall attempts by both men had the Japanese crowd going nuts. Okada hit a beautiful dropkick, but a trio of Dragon Screws took him down to the mat, where he was prone for a pair of HFFs and down for the count.
Winner and still IWGP Heavyweight Champion: Hiroshi Tanahashi