TOKYO – I traveled halfway around the world, from Toronto to Tokyo, for New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 12 show. It was worth it. Here are my thoughts on the experience, and the reactions of the crowd during the show.
There was a big buzz during the day in Tokyo Dome City, which is the district of Tokyo that includes the Tokyo Dome, the Tokyo Dome hotel and other important wrestling areas. In the morning after I got into the main lobby of the Tokyo Dome hotel Juice Robinson was sporting a fanny pack walking around. Members of the Bullet Club were dressed in suits waiting for their ride.
There were also stars from other promotions in Japan hanging around such as Colt Cabana, Speedball Mike Bailey, Joey Ryan, and Veda Scott. This gave the day a very special feeling.
In the Tokyo Dome there were countless languages being spoken. It was great to see that wrestling is a universal language that anyone can understand.
New Japan Rumble
Doors opened at 3:30 and the New Japan Rumble started at 4:00. Unfortunately, a lot of people were still waiting to get inside the Tokyo Dome while the New Japan Rumble was taking place. There were a lot of empty seats during the beginning of the New Japan Rumble. At the 10-minute mark of the Rumble the seats started filling in and people were making noise.
Jushin Liger received the loudest pop out of anyone in the Rumble. A minority of fans were chanting Cheeseburger when he was in the Rumble. Masahito Kakihara eliminated Cheeseburger for the win.
The sight lines for wrestling in Japan are amazing. Unfortunately, most of the sight lines in North America and the UK are poor when it is a wrestling event. I had floor seats at Wrestle Kingdom 12 and every few rows back were raised up more than the ones in front. Too many times I get floor seats and can’t see a thing because there are several rows of people in front of me. In Japan I have never had a bad seat because of a poor sight line.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight tag team championship – Roppongi 3K (Sho and Yoh) vs. The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson)
The Young Bucks had a great entrance with great production. The production throughout Wrestle Kingdom 12 was great and better than most WWE pay-per-views. The Young Bucks and Roppongi 3K had a slow match that told a great story. This was a welcome change from The Young Bucks spotfests that they commonly deliver. During the in-ring high spots there was almost no noise from a bump. Either there is no microphone under the ring or the Tokyo Dome absorbs the noise. The Young Bucks win via submission and gain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight tag team championship.
Gauntlet match for the NEVER Openweight 6-man tag team championship – Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa) vs. Chaos (Beretta, Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano) vs. Michael Elgin and War Machine (Hanson and Raymond Rowe) vs. Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Takashi Iizuka and Zack Sabre Jr.) vs. Taguchi Japan (Juice Robinson, Ryusuke Taguchi and Togi Makabe)
There was a lot of booing for Elgin by foreign fans every time he would hit a move, whereas the Japanese fans did not seem to like or dislike Elgin. The booing by foreign fans was likely a result of the allegation that he didn’t handle an accusation of sexual assault by a former student properly. The crowd loved Juice Robinson, Ryusuke Taguchi and Togi Makabe and sighed when there were eliminated. The loudest reaction of the match was when Ishii suplexed Fale. Chaos won by eliminating Bullet Club by pinfall.
Cody (with Brandi Rhodes) vs. Kota Ibushi
The match started with dueling chats for Cody and Ibushi. Ibushi took a very sick looking bump off the ring apron and sold his neck. From this point on the crowd was solidly behind Ibushi for taking that sick bump and fighting back. Cody got heat for a few minutes by working on Ibushi’s neck. When Ibushi made his comeback and won it was very loud.
Tag team match for the IWGP tag team championship – Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Lance Archer) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Evil and Sanada)
Evil and Sanada had an amazing entrance with the lasers, video screen and other lighting. The majority of the crowd had Los Ingobernables de Japon shirts and jackets on and the crowd was behind them the whole night. This was a hard-hitting match that had some slams to the outside of the ring and I heard and felt the thuds. Los Ingobernables de Japon won, which at first surprised the audience and then gave way to cheers.
NEVER openweight championship – Hair match – Minoru Suzuki vs. Hirooki Goto
Goto was choked out, which got a great sympathetic reaction for him. A minority of people cheered for Suzuki during the beginning of the match. After the striking flurry, the majority of the audience cheered for Suzuki. The crowd was happy to have Goto win and politely applauded Suzuki for shaving his own head.
Four-way match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship – Marty Scurll vs. Hiromu Takahashi vs. Kushida vs. Will Ospreay
Hiromu, Kushida and Ospreay all worked a fast paced style and were repeatedly cut off by Scurll, which the fans cheered for. Ospreay’s moves were amazing to see in person. The last few moments of the match with the power bombs to the outside and other flashy moves had the crowd going crazy. Ospreay won over Hiromu.
IWGP Intercontinental championship – Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jay White
This match was the dud on the card. The fans never really got into this match. There were some Tanahashi chats but overall fans didn’t care about this match. The near falls with White pinning Tanahashi generated a flat reaction from the crowd. The crowd never thought White had a chance to beat Tanahashi. Tanahashi won the match over White.
IWGP United States Heavyweight championship – No DQ – Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho
This was a great old school brawling style match, violent and bloody. The crowd loved Jericho during the beginning of the match and there were lots of Y2J chats. Fans booed when Omega grabbed the ropes to break the hold and the referee was counting so that Jericho would break. People were saying that rope breaks don’t matter since it is no DQ. During the end of the match the crowd was turning on Jericho with chats of “Fozzy sucks”. There was also a “Red Shoes’ chant directed to the referee. Kenny Omega retained the US championship via pinfall with a One-Winged Angel onto a chair.
IWGP Heavyweight championship – Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito
Both Okada and Naito came out to very loud cheers. Naito had a louder reaction than Okada. During the near falls at the end of the match the majority of the fans were standing. Okada cut off Naito numerous times, which drove the crowd nuts. It was the match of the night, if not the match of the year. The whole match featured great story telling and had many near falls. Okada won via pinfall with the Rainmaker. The fans did not respond well to Okada winning. They were not upset and booing Okada but they were not happy that he won.