The most NJPW I have ever watched is AJ Styles verses Shinsuke Nakamura last year. Obviously, that match was amazing but I kind of left it at that. This year, one of my wrestling resolutions is to branch out and try new promotions. So I thought, what better place to start than Wrestle Kingdom 11 headlined by Okada and Omega, more on that match later.
So what were my initial impressions of New Japan? Well, my first thought was that ‘holy hell that’s a lot of flat seating, the people at the back must not be able to see a god damn thing!’.
Secondly, despite boasting a crowd of 40,000 people the way the Tokyo Dome is lit and shot makes the thing look half empty. That still camera shot from up in the crowd showed off the massive amounts of empty space behind the seats too. Now I don’t know the layout of the Tokyo Dome, but to me it seems like they were wasting the crowd attendance size. You’ve got to hand it to WWE sometimes, they do know how to shoot wrestling. Everything is so crisp and pure. Having said that, WWE have far too many cuts during moves. A problem NJPW didn’t suffer with. It was refreshing to have camera shots linger and show the full sequence before changing to another.
Finally throughout the night I really enjoyed the Ring of Honor commentary team of Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino. I thought they did a brilliant job at telling the story of the match, explaining motivations and strategies. They came across as two very knowledgeable wrestling fans who just loved the sport. Also, the way they talked about everything just made it all seem so much more real. As if it was an actually sporting competition, just with larger than life characters. I loved it. The duo even did a pretty decent job of trying to explain and hype up the importance of Tiger Mask W verses Tiger The Dark, which was essentially an advertising campaign for the cartoon show. They did that by explaining that while these were two professional wrestlers playing characters from a show, they were still both highly competitive and wanted to win the match.
The event was 10 matches long but really only the last 4 matches felt like the meant anything from my perspective (the perspective of complete outsider to the brand and product). I got the impression that all 3 tag team titles change hands on a weekly basis so winning them, didn’t really mean all that much. The Young Bucks reaction to losing was literally to say “oh well, we still have these other belts”. Matt and Nick Jackson actually had one of my favourite spots from early on in the card when they pretended to leave their match. Only to Superkick their opponents at the top of the ramp and then sprint back to the ring to try and get a count out victory.
Cody (Rhodes) verses Juice Robinson, better known as TJ Parker from NXT, was an average match that never really got going. Yet I was more disappointed in the Ring of Honor World Title match. It was short, the Japanese fans didn’t seem to care and the match seemed to lack intensity. The ending was pretty good though with Adam Cole winning his third title with some incredibly stiff sounding kicks to the head.
So the opening 6 matches didn’t set my world on fire, but they were still entertaining and I was enjoying the show. Then the finally 4 matches happened and I’m loving the show. Hiromu Takahshi verses Kushida, Hirooki Goto verses Katsuyori Shibata, Tetsuya Naito verses Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada verses Kenny Omega. All brilliant. All out doing the one that came before.
Honestly, it was 4 great matches getting better one after another with it all coming to a climax with one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. Okada verses Omega was brilliant and the reason I’m saying that might be different from why others are saying it. I went into the match not knowing much about either man. I knew Omega was the leader of Bullet Club and that was pretty much it. So for me to sit through that match, on the edge of my seat enjoying every moment says it all. They got me emotionally invested, sometimes WWE can’t get me to care at the culmination of a 3 year feud (Rock/Cena 2 anyone?). I always say that stories are the most important thing in wrestling and again its the commentary that sold me on this feud. On it’s importance. The wrestling itself was awesome. Clean, stiff, exciting. The Moonsault over the barrier from Omega was insane! And then the final ten minutes in which you literally don’t know who is going to win. False finish after false finisher. Omega trying to hit his finisher but never quite being able to. The rainmaker clothesline barrage. Brilliant.
Quite simply its a must watch match.
Was it a 6 star match though? It doesn’t matter, it was a damn good match. However, you can’t have a rating system and then break the rating system. That’s like saying a goal was so good in football you get 2 goals for it. Madness! Madness Dave Meltzer! Madness!