Mediocre is not usually a word you use to describe Wrestle Kingdom but this year’s edition is lacking something. Known consistently as being one of the best events of the year and hosting numerous Match of the Year candidates, Wrestle Kingdom just doesn’t seem the same this year. There hasn’t been that anticipation or that energy that one associates with the time-honoured event.
Night One did get better as the evening progressed but the first half was sluggish and bogged down with two ineffectual multi-man tag team matches, a listless grudge match followed by a humdrum Katsuyori Shibata Wrestle Kingdom return bout in which he faced Young Lion Ren Narita of all opponents.
The Wrestle Kingdom vibe did make a comeback during the second half of the evening but one wonders if having the same talent wrestle on two consecutive nights forces them to save their energy for their premiere match? It may be time for the event to go back to just one night. In that way, the best of NJPW will be on display with no filler matches and no cautious or tenuous performances.
Facing Shingo Takagi in the main event of night one, Okada came down to the ring with the old NJPW heavyweight championship over his shoulder and looking very much like Antonio Inoki. Shingo ‘The Dragon’ Takagi, the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, made his entrance on a platform which raised up through the floor with smoke and mist surrounding.
The match itself began slowly with both competitors not wanting to be the first to make a mistake. Okada gathered some speed off the ropes for a shoulder tackle. Shingo shook his head not moving an inch. A second attempt was met with the same result. Shingo battled back dropping Okada face-first on the ring apron.
Okada blocked a Made in Japan on the floor reversing it into a DDT. Shingo absorbed the DDT suplexing Okada with a dull thud. Shingo walked off the pain before ramming Okada’s back into the ring apron.
Shingo leaned on Okada dropping him to the mat with sledgehammer blows to the back, head and chest.
Okada cranked up the momentum of the match hitting the ropes for multiple clotheslines, DDTing Shingo and drop kicking him off the top rope to the arena floor. A big boot kicked Shingo over the ringside barricade. Okada ran full-tilt at Shingo clearing the barricade and splashing him into an empty row of chairs.
A shotgun drop kick from the top rope had Shingo startled enough that he gave up a two count to Okada. With Shingo wobbly, Okada applied the Money Clip squeezing the oxygen out of Shingo’s lungs for as long as he could.
Two short-arm clotheslines had Shingo set-up for the Rainmaker. Shingo ducked and hit Made in Japan. Okada kicked out. Shingo spiked Okada a second time. Okada kicked out once again. A Pumping Bomber rattled Okada some more. It couldn’t put him away though. Okada couldn’t capitalize on his Rainmaker Clothesline to Shingo as he laid on the mat trying to clear the cobwebs from his head from the absolutely grueling bout.
Okada and Shingo laid in blow after blow as they fought to a standoff in the middle of the ring. Shingo continued to throw punches and slaps but Okada stood stock still and defiant.
Okada DDT’ed Shingo off the top rope and pinned him with the Rainmaker Clothesline.
As a show of respect to all the champions who came before him Okada refused to accept the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship belt right away and instead laid the IWGP Heavyweight Championship belt on the mat bowing to it.
Will Ospreay immediately interrupted Okada’s celebration. Ospreay announced Okada as the “interim champion”.
Ospreay commented on how Okada looked tired but he didn’t break a sweat in his tag team match earlier in the evening.
“I cannot wait because not only tomorrow am I getting sweet revenge but I am going to walk out with the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship and you can go away from New Japan, go be an actor because NJPW will be safe in my hands,” declared Ospreay.
Wrestle Kingdom 16 continues tomorrow night.
Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night One Results
New Japan Rambo
The last four survivors will go on to a match on tomorrow’s Wrestle Kingdom show to determine the Provisional KOPW Champion.
- As soon as Suzuki entered the match he squared off against Nagata then proceeded to eliminate all of the Young Lions one after the other.
- Kanemaru spit whiskey in the face of Tenzan to pin him.
- Bad Luck Fale threw out three or four people when he entered.
- The special entrants this year were Cima and NJPW legend Tatsumi Fujinami.
- Owens, Suzuki and Cima all stomped on Yano after the match.
- Suzuki chased a hobbling Owens all the way to the back.
|Rambo Entry Order
|Bad Luck Fale
|Bad Luck Fale
Winners: Minoru Suzuki, Chase Owens, Cima and Toru Yano.
Match Rating: 7 / 10
Yoh versus Sho – Grudge Match
This match isn’t as high-flying or as technical as you think it might be. Both men seemed to be holding back and not taking many risks. Perhaps that’s because they are wrestling tomorrow too?
Yoh immediately takes things to the floor splashing Sho, dragging him up the rampway by the hair. Sho heaves Ryohei Oiwa at Yoh. Sho slams Yoh on the entrance way. He picks up Oiwa slamming him on Yoh. The crowd claps encouraging Yoh to get back into the ring and beat the count.
Yoh takes Sho down to the mat just pounding his head and face with stiff forearm smashes. He grabs Sho’s arms stomping him in the face. Sho pushes the official into Yoh. He spears him in the ensuing confusion. Sho takes a page out of Yoh’s book labeling him with forearm smashes and stomps to the face. A crossarm piledriver and a powerbomb gets Sho a two count.
As Yoh has Sho in a leg breaker submission Dick Togo wanders down to ringside. He jumps on the apron arguing with the official. Sho taps out but the official is tied up with Togo. Yoh goes over to take care of Togo. Sho gives him a German Suplex from behind. Sho cannot capitalize though as his knee has been injured. Sho locks in Snake Bite. Yoh starts to fade but his hatred for Sho pushes him on to fight the hold and escape.
Togo is back on the apron again grabbing the official by the shirt. Sho quickly retrieves his trusty wrench. He takes a swing at Yoh. Yoh ducks running Sho into Togo. Yoh pins Sho with a bridging roll-up.
Sho runs at Yoh with the wrench again. Yoh super kicks him in the chops. Togo pulls Sho out of the ring before anything else can happen to him.
Winner: Sho at 12 minutes and 33 seconds.
Match Rating: 7 / 10
Hiroshi Tanahashi, The Mega Coaches (Rocky Romero and Ryusuke Taguchi) versus Bullet Club (Kenta, El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori)
Kenta softens up The Ace for their match tomorrow by running him into the steel post. Bullet Club cuts off Taguchi from his team. Ishimori and Phantasmo have him shrieking in pain with a double testicle stomp in their corner. Taguchi finally tags in Tanahashi who squares off against Kenta. Kenta shoves The Ace into the official and almost rolls up Tanahashi for the pin. Tanhashi kicks out though, collides with the official sending him through the ropes and out of the ring. Seeing the official is down Kenta take his kendo stick smashing it over Tanahashi again and again. Ishimori and Phantasmo hold Tanahashi for Kenta. Tanahashi is able to kick Kenta in the gut turning the tables on Ishimori and Phantasmo too. The Mega Coaches come to Tanahashi’s aid splashing Phantasmo and Ishimori on the floor. The Ace takes the kendo stick and as promised feeds on his dark side by caning Kenta with it. The official attempts to stop Tanahashi. The Ace shrugs him off. Tanahashi bashes Kenta some more with the kendo stick. The referee calls for the bell and the disqualification. The Mega Coaches eventually have to pull Tanahashi off of Kenta.
Winners: Bullet Club (Kenta, El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori) via disqualification at 8 minutes and 52 seconds.
Match Rating: 7 / 10
The United Empire (Jeff Cobb, The Great-O-Khan and Will Ospreay) versus Los Ingobernables de Japón (Bushi, Sanada and Tetsuya Naito)
Another throwaway tag team match. Ospreay is back in Japan after being gone for eight months due to injury. Henare comes to the ring with his United Empire buddies. Ospreay sits in a chair on the floor and laughs while Cobb drives Naito into the ringside barricade spine-first. Due to his title match against the winner of tonight’s main event, Ospreay explained before Wrestle Kingdom that he would leave this match to his United Empire pals. When Ospreay does tag in though the crowd claps loudly. Bushi escapes Storm Breaker only to suffer a pop-up powerbomb. Ospreay pins Bushi with a Hidden Blade that completely misses its target. What could it all mean? Naito jokes around with Cobb bringing him an ice pack for his sore knee. The two men face each other tomorrow.
Winners: The United Empire (Jeff Cobb, The Great-O-Khan and Will Ospreay) at 10 minutes and 16 seconds.
Match Rating: 6 / 10
Katsuyori Shibata versus Ren Narita
It is supposed to be a match without any striking but…before the match begins Shibata announces that this bout will be regular wrestling rules. That is fine but Ren Narita, a Young Lion is his opponent? Why is this part of the Wrestle Kingdom card? I love that Shibata is returning as I am a big fan but…like this? Ugh. Shibata wins with a sleeper and a penalty kick. Shibata gives Narita at hearty pat on the back.
Winner: Katsuyori Shibata at 11 minutes and 40 seconds.
Match Rating: 6 / 10
Evil versus Tomohiro Ishii (c) – NEVER Openweight Championship Match
Dick Togo is Evil’s cornerman, which is no surprise. As Ishii makes his entrance and steps on the apron, Evil attacks. Evil banks Ishii’s head off a steel post. He hits him with a steel chair in the gut and goes for his solo Conchairto. Ishii kicks him in the stomach. Both men have a chair duel on the floor. Evil loses that battle. As Ishii raises his chair up to whack Evil, Togo hits him from behind. Ishii is rammed into the ringside barrier which sends the time keeper’s table flying. Evil brings Ishii to his knees with his solo Conchairto. Back in the ring, Ishii is whipped into an exposed turnbuckle twice by Evil. Methinks you will find Dick Togo’s fingerprints all over that missing buckle. Evil throws Ishii to the floor and begins arguing with the official. On the floor, Togo batters Ishii before rolling him back into the ring.
Ishii slugs it out with Evil in the centre of the ring then throws him into the exposed turnbuckle. Evil shoves the official to the mat as he backs Ishii up to the ropes where Togo hits Ishii in the back with a steel chair from the floor. Ishii is sent into the exposed buckle. He no-sells the damage clotheslining Evil. Ishii holds Evil up for a Superplex. He gets a two count from the official for his efforts.
Ishii is tripped up by Togo as he bounces off the ropes for a sliding lariat. Evil holds onto the official as Ishii tries to suplex him and pushes the official into Ishii’s clothesline. Togo is quick to slide into the ring lay the boots to Ishii and choke him out with his garotte. If that wasn’t bad enough Yujiro Takahashi comes into the ring clotheslining Ishii. Where is Chaos during all of this? Who knows?
Ishii flings Togo into Yujiro. Yujiro is whipped into the exposed buckle. Ishii stands up Evil in a corner chopping him. Sho is the final member of the House of Torture to show his face. From the blindside he suplexes Ishii. Yoh leaps the barricade. He takes out the House of Torture on his own with flying forearms and super kicks. He splashes both Yujiro and Sho on the floor.
Dick Togo snatches the NEVER Openweight Championship belt. Yoh stops him before he can enter the ring and inflict any damage with it. Ishii lifts up Evil for his Brainbuster finisher. Yujiro punches Ishii in the “lower abdomen”. Togo distracts the official so Evil can hit Ishii in the head with the NEVER Openweight Championship belt. Evil pins Ishii with Everything is Evil.
Winner…and new NEVER Openweight Champion, Evil at 12 minutes and 10 seconds.
Match Rating: 8 /10
Chaos (Hirooki Gotō and Yoshi-Hashi) versus Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi and Zack Sabre Jr.) (c) – IWGP Tag Team Championship Match
It doesn’t take long for things to go to the floor. Taichi tosses Goto into the steel barricade, chokes him out with a microphone cord. The Tekkers isolate Hashi until Goto tags in. Sabre Jr. saves the championships for the Tekkers several times until he takes a GYW. Zach is a victim of Shoto but Taichi is the legal man. Taichi comes to Zach’s aid fighting off both Chaos members alone. A Canadian Destroyer from Hashi, a GTR from Goto and their new finisher pins Taichi.
Winners: …and new IWGP Tag Team Champions, Hirooki Gotō and Yoshi-Hashi at 15 minutes and 27 seconds.
Match Rating: 7.5 / 10
El Desperado (c) versus Hiromu Takahashi – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match
Both men get into a very long, very cruel battle of the chops in the middle of the ring. Both of their chests, neck end up blistered. Desperado tries for a powerbomb but Hiromu catches him in his ‘D’ submission. Desperado lifts up Hiromu to his feet to escape. Hiromu rattles Desperado with a sunset powerbomb on the arena floor. Both men make it back to the ring at nineteen.
They return to square one with a slugfest in the middle of the ring. Hiromu drives Desperado into a corner. Desperado splashes Hiromu off the top rope for a two count. A pop-up powerbomb on Desperado has both men laying on the canvass with the crowd clapping for both of them to return to their feet and continue on. Hiromu stuns Desperado with his belly-to-belly suplex into a corner. Hiromu crushes Desperado with a Dynamite Plunger and a Death Valley Driver into another corner.
Hiromu avoids the Pinche Loco but runs into a haymaker as he bounces off the ropes. Desperado demolishes Hiromu with a Pinche Loco. Hiromu answers with a haymaker to the jaw. Desperado fires back knocking Hiromu to the mat. Desperado picks up a dazed Hiromy for two Pinche Locos in a row for the victory.
Winner: …and still IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, El Desperado at…16 minutes and 20 seconds.
Match Rating: 8 / 10
Kazuchika Okada versus Shingo Takagi (c) – IWGP World Heavyweight Championship Match
Winner: …and new IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, Kazuchika Okada at 35 minutes and 44 seconds.
Match Rating: 9 / 10
Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night One
Night one was presented in two completely different parts, like night and day. The first half really dragged and played out like any run-of-the-mill NJPW event. It was only when the Evil versus Ishii match began did the show turn a corner and seem like a Wrestle Kingdom event with everyone going for broke, really pushing the limits of their abilities because they are inspired by the Wrestle Kingdom billing and the Tokyo Dome crowd. We will see if there is an inconsistency tomorrow night and if so, perhaps it is time for Wrestle Kingdom to return to one night and not two.