Wrestle Kingdom 13: An Unseasoned Fan's Perspective Submitted by LoneLee on 01/05/2019 at 01:49 PM
Happy New Year and all that stuff, everyone! Yeah, I'm a couple days late. 2019 has already been a year of excitement and heartbreak for the wrestling world and we are merely 5 days in! It's what it means to be a wrestling fan, guys. Our world is always spinning in a frenzy of either controversy and/or marquee events. One of these steadfast traditions has been Wrestle Kingdom. And believe it or not, this was my first viewing of a Wrestle Kingdom event in it's entirety. Which is why I want to make that clear at the top of this column. I am by no means an expert on the NJPW product but I have been following some of my favorites for a couple years now. That being said, let's look at most of the highs (and lows if I can find any.)
The Pre-show match was the only sight of Minoru Suzuki we were given for the night. Really a satisfying moment witnessing two grizzled vets like Suzuki and Yuji Nagata slug it out albeit briefly. This was an interesting blend of everyone's styles from, comedic to high spot to powerhouse to strong style. I'm not exactly sure where Yujiro Takahashi ranks on the popularity list in Bullet Club but as long as he has arm candy like that he's my Kenny Omega. On that note, Where the hell was Taichi? Of course that really means where the hell was Miho Abe?
Anywho, now that I got that out of my system, the thought of Wrestle Kingdom 14 happening next year intrigues me. It had been suggested Wrestlemania do the same thing in the future rather than marathon an extended event until it becomes a drag. But even with the intimidating 5 hr elapsed time of today's event I have to say it moved along very fast. Most of it. By the way, did the venue change after the pre-show? Remember, I'm kind of new at this.
What better way to start than with a concussion? I kid, but I've already come to know when Kota Ibushi goes to the ring for a big show, he's gonna leave it all in the ring. Having the slightly leaner Will Osprey opposite of him only amplifies it. This could've been built as a modern day, athletic version of the Ultimate Challenge. Two forces that were so powerful, they must never compete again. Glad to see Will gradually make his way up the ranks in hopes to see him as a heavyweight one day.
This was actually my first chance to see Shingo Takagi compete. What a perfect fit for the tranquilo group. He's stocky and eccentric enough to stick around my favorite band of peculiar personalities in the wrestling business. Would've liked to see this one go longer but of course that would mean cutting another match's time. Never mind then.
Zack Sabre Jr....what else can I say? I've always enjoyed how he can systematically destroy his opponents from largest of limbs to their smallest appendages. How he can seamlessly transition from one hold to another, to another, to another. ZSJ could easily be THE top guy in NJPW when the time is right. The tall, lanky ZSJ against the stout Ishii I thought would present a challenge in combat styles but resulted Zack dominating most of the match. Perhaps a turning point for the usually floating placeholder Ishii? The Stone Pitbull never loses anything by losing a match, but it's was unusual to see him submit.
The first match to make me jump out of my seat. "No way the Tongas lose" I said, "No way the faultering Bullet Club lose their main piece of gold." But with The Bucks on their way out and the rest of LIJ involved in championship matches tonight...then maybe? Sadly, The Young Bucks felt like a colossal afterthought in this match. As compared to their past WK matches and the part they've played in putting NJPW on the map as a global attraction, I hope they get a better send off than this. Other than that, overjoyed to see Evil with a championship again. How crazy it is to see his transformation from Watanabe.
Speaking of a bad send off, could Cody lose any more clear and concise than that? I understand that had to be the case considering what future holds for Cody both inside and outside the ring. Kevin Kelly noted it to be unlucky to defend the IWGP US title given that consecutive champions have been unsuccessful in their first defenses. Unfortunately, the title has seen 5 different sets of hands (Juice held it twice, I know) and between them has only been defended successfully 7 times. Sorry, I like to count things.
This is where i kind of zoned out. Nothing against Kushida or Ishiimori, and certainly nothing against creepy tiny Kushida....gosh that was creepy....but this match never grabbed my vested interest. Perhaps I was a little bummed that Hiromu Takahashi should've been in this match but wasn't and may possibly never be again. I might need my own Daryl to deal with that trauma. Not surprising to see Ishiimori go over her given early speculation that WWE is eyeing Kushida.
Finally, a break from title change kingdom! A good old fashion grudge match! Great to see the old Okada back, complete with Rainmaker entrance and trademark short tights. He still exudes the same charisma and makes every fight feel important whether a championship is on the line or not. I was hoping we'd get a little less Gedo in this given the high caliber of talent in the ring and bragging rights at stake. Jay White is being positioned to be that next level top guy that AJ Styles and Kenny Omega were as leaders of the Bullet Club. This was a big win that he needed and sets up an easy rematch somewhere down the line between the two.
Literally, the match I came to see. In fact, the deciding factor in ordering Wrestle Kingdom to begin with. Not just because i am a huge LIJ fan boy, but this was a feud that had slow seasoning build between two boisterous yet polar opposite personalities. When i look back on moments in wrestling I often think of times when kayfabe got the best of me. Maybe it's because i feel a connection to the competitor or because just for a small moment, it's still real to me...damn it. This was one of those moments. Tetsuya Naito recapturing the IC title from the ageless Chris Jericho was the culmination of a year long blood feud. Both men could easily be in contention for the World championship, and that seems to be the case with Jericho. But i have no problem imagining Naito as a dual title holder as LIJ continues to collect all the gold. Also, kudos for showing the high points of the rivalry in each wrestler's respective big screen entrance.
The much talked about main event. Of course, the obvious question being with Kenny Omega's future of the company depending on the outcome. Now that he and The Elite are free of all gold, his is the only question mark. Personally, I really hope to see him at the G1 Supercard at Madison Square Garden if nothing else. The fact of the matter is he has put forth a legacy as the greatest wrestler/performer in the current era and nothing can take that away from him. Any promotion will be lucky to have him and hopefully they bring the best out ouf him. Having said that, it was great to see a more heelish attitude out of him against the desperate Tanahashi. I feared at first the Ace of New Japan would result to heelish tactics to reclaim his place a la Stone Cold Steve Austin Wrestlemania X7. That was not the case as the moral standing Tanahashi only tried to use a table once and crashed through it, quickly learning his lesson. This match slightly lacked the finesse of the Okada/Omega saga probably due to the different chemistry between the two. It was a slow build and gradual increase in excitement as the drama continued. Wrestling 101 for an endurance match as Omega has grown so accustomed to performing. I also have much respect for the protection of Omega's finisher as stated during the match only one person has kicked out of it. A lost art in all of wrestling these days.
Overall, to say this was worth it is an understatement. I feel like too many people label things with stars, numbers, and scores. Also it's in the Tokyo Dome so it automatically gets an extra 3 stars! Ok, sorry. I'll just say if you are a wrestling fan, or want to introduce someone to wrestling, this was the perfect event for each. NJPW athletes are some of the hardest working performers on the planet and they continue to excite crowds across the globe.