by Philip Overby
Wrestle Kingdom VI. My second Wrestle Kingdom in a row. Last year saw Hiroshi Tanahashi capture the IWGP Heavyweight Championship from Satoshi Kojima.
After a full year of defenses, Tanahashi defends against challenger Minoru Suzuki going for a record 11 defenses. I was surprised that my seats were on the floor (pleasantly) but because people kept moving their heads around and such, it was harder for me to see some of the action. I did however get some decent pictures as I was right by the Blue Corner’s exit guardrail.
The show seemed to be about as packed as last time, and overall I would say the quality of matches were good, but they didn’t really match Wrestle Kingdom V in my opinion. The crowd seemed more subdued than last year as well, but that may have been just because my location made it harder to hear the reactions overall.
So, on to the show!
0. Dark Match: Tama Tonga and Captain New Japan vs. Kyosuke Mikami and Tomaki Honma
ENTRANCE: Standard entrances for both teams.
-Captain New Japan looks like a red version of Capt. America with an inflatable New Japan shield.
-Tama Tonga worked the opening match last year as well. His style and look is heavily influenced by Jimmy Snuka.
-The heel team looked thrown together, but worked together well.
CROWD REACTION: The crowd was into Tonga’s flashy offense, but the match ended pretty quickly.
STAR(S) OF THE MATCH: A cool series of spots and good fan reaction made Tonga the star of this match in my opinion.
WINNER: Tonga hits swinging DDT on Mikami.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Good match to give the fans some action as they’re taking their seats.
1. IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championship Match
No Remorse Corps: Davey Richards and Rocky Romero (c) vs. Apollo 55: Prince Devitt and Ryusuke Taguchi
ENTRANCES: Apollo 55 had a memorable entrance with their astronaut outfits. Definitely one of my most unique entrances I’ve ever seen. New Japan really does their entrances well.
-Lots of kicking as expected and some cool dives to the outside.
-Richards looked a bit more subdued than his ROH-style.
-Richards tied up a Tequila Sunrise at one point which was a nice throw-back.
-A brilliant exchange of kicks ends with a Pele’ from Devitt to Richards.
-Romero had a funny spot where he screamed and clotheslined Devitt in the corner over and over again only to be clipped by a clothesline of Devitt in the end.
-A doomsday flying knee from NRC!
-Richards does an impressive superplex followed by a float-over suplex.
CROWD REACTION: Fans were firmly behind Apollo 55. There was some heat for NRC when they cut off some of the outside dives.
STAR(S) OF THE MATCH: Richards/Devitt displayed some great technical moves, though I’m curious how awesome a singles match between the two would be.
WINNER: Taguchi pins Richards after reversing a powerbomb into a roll-up.
FINAL THOUGHTS: A fine opening match for Wrestle Kingdom though could have been longer.
2. AERIAL KINGDOM
Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask IV, Mascara Dorada, and KUSHIDA vs. Atlantis, Valiente, TAKA Michinoku, and Taichi
ENTRANCES: The heel team came out to “Party Rock” by LMFAO, which I thought was funny for a heel team to be using. But Taichi is on the team so it makes sense. The face team had an “Atom” mascot (or Astro Boy in the US) come out then suddenly a flashing anime of a tiger looking guy flashed on the screen and crowd popped big. Liger’s song boomed through the arena. Liger is wearing a really awesome outfit this year. He has white hair, silver mask, and a silver suit. He looks like some kind of ghost or something. Cool look.
-Taichi gets what I’m going to call “Spot Blocking Heat” by cutting off a dive early in the match. This seems to be an ongoing way to get heat for the New Japan heels, especially in a match full of high fliers.
-Lots of body splashes on Liger.
-Taichi does a series of spots where he tries to take off everyone’s masks. He starts with Liger, then Tiger Mask, then Dorada. Crowd, of course, hates this. Rotten Taichi!
-There were a series of high spots involving dives to the outside. The most impressive was Dorada, who did some kind of strange, twisting splash.
-There was a botch from either Atlantis or Valiente. I couldn’t tell which one.
-Liger hits a powerbomb and a stalling brainbuster!
CROWD REACTION: Taichi got the most heat with his “take off everyone’s masks” spot. There was an audible laugh from the botched dive. Liger was super-over and had the coolest ring gear of the night. Kudos to whoever designed it.
KUSHIDA shined a bit in the match. Good to see him make his debut at the Tokyo Dome.
STAR(S) OF THE MATCH: Liger was most over, but Dorada had some nice moments. I’d say Dorada by a hair.
WINNER: Liger with a brainbuster on Atlantis
FINAL THOUGHTS: Good match to let everyone get some spots in, but nothing that really stood out, besides the awesome dive from Dorada and Liger’s cool ring gear.
3. NEW JAPAN RESPIRATION
Kazuchika Okada vs. YOSHI-HASHI (Nobuo Yoshihashi)
ENTRANCES: Okada introduces a new gimmick, Rainmaker, with a video of money raining down. Supposedly he’s working as a face in this match against YOSHI-HASHI representing CHAOS.
-Pretty standard back and forth, YOSHI-HASHI spits on the ref.
-Okada hits an impressive missile drop kick.
-I have no idea what happened, but Okada hit some weird looking clothesline thing. I don’t even know what it was. Match is over.
CROWD REACTION: Not much either way. The crowd said “Ehhh?” after the match ended abruptly. I’m assuming their match got cut for time. It seemed like it was over in three minutes.
STAR(S) OF THE MATCH: Okada, because he won.
WINNER: Okada with the Rainmaker (a weird slam finisher.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: This match didn’t have any shining moments really and I think it suffered from time constraints. Okada wouldn’t be finished tonight with his bizarre behavior.
4. BLUE JUSTICE NEVER DIE (I know it’s misspelled)
Blue Justice: Yuji Nagata and Wataru Inoue vs. STACK OF ARMS: Masakatsu Funaki and Masayuki Kono
ENTRANCES: Blue Justice gets a strong reaction, particularly Nagata. STACK OF ARMS come out with an All Japan flag.
-Lots of stiff kicks as expected from Nagata and Funaki.
-Nagata gets a big pop for stretching his arm and rolling his eyes back in his head. I guess that’s a signature look he has.
-Inoue hits an impressive deadlift German on Funaki for a good reaction.
-Funaki kicks the crap out of Inoue’s head. And that’s it.
CROWD REACTION: There was a show-down at the end, as Funaki was bleeding from the nose. He looked pissed. He headbutted Nagata in the face so maybe that’s how it happened. The crowd buzzed for this. Nagata was loved as expected. Kono and Funaki got heat (presumably because they’re from All Japan.)
STAR(S) OF THE MATCH: Nagata and Funaki will be an awesome singles series I think. Seems that’s where they are leading.
WINNER: Funaki after a head kick to Inoue.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Looking forward to seeing Funaki and Nagata having some singles matches. They’re both very intense veterans.
5. TOKYO MONSTER WAR
MVP and Shelton Benjamin vs. Masato Tanaka and Yujiro Takahashi
ENTRANCES: The Complete Players come out together (with Jado and Gedo, I believe) and MVP and Benjamin had separate entrances. MVP had flames shooting out of the stage when he came in.
-Benjamin hits some big slams at the beginning and MVP follows with two Ballin’ Elbows, which the crowd screams back “Ballin’!” Not sure they know where that comes from.
-Some nice spots between MVP and Tanaka. Tanaka splashes MVP through a table so I assume this match has no rules. He hits Benjamin with a kendo stick afterward.
-A nice reversal from MVP out of hip toss shows how agile he is.
-Benjamin gets the big exploder powerslam. Takahashi answers with a belly to belly.
-Great series of German suplexes from MVP and he kips up for a nice reaction.
-Benjamin climbs up the ropes like a cat and throws Takahashi and MVP locks in the crossface. Takahashi taps.
CROWD REACTION: MVP and Benjamin both got good pops for their offense.
STAR(S) OF THE MATCH: MVP and Benjamin both did a good job. I haven’t seen much of their work outside WWE, but they both seem a bit freer with their offense.
WINNER: MVP with a crossface on Takahashi
FINAL THOUGHTS: The match was pretty good and gave MVP and Benjamin a way to show off their talent on a big stage at Tokyo Dome.
6. IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match
Bad Intentions: Giant Bernard and Karl “Machine Gun” Anderson (c) vs. TenKoji: Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima
ENTRANCES: Most awesome entrance of the night had Anderson with a prop machine gun that he shot at a digital picture of Tanahashi holding a girl in a bikini listing him as “The MVP of New Japan” or something like that. The picture caught on fire. TenKoji’s entrance showed their history together which I thought was a nice touch. They got a big pop when they came out together.
-Kojima flexes his pecs (a la’ Chris Masters) after putting down Anderson. In a funny moment, Anderson slams Kojima and mimics the pec flex.
-For some reason the crowd makes a hissing sound when Tenzan does Mongolian chops. Tenzan makes the sound, but it’s barely audible.
-Bad Intentions flatten Tenzan after repeated elbow drops and knee drops.
-Tenzan reverses a brain buster into a big suplex.
-Kojima suddenly channels Kenta Kobashi and chops Bernard like crazy.
-Anderson hits a running Liger bomb and then Bernard gives a series of Vader bombs.
-Kojima and Anderson trade Cutters.
-Tenzan hits a massive headbutt.
-Kojima breaks up a pin for a big pop and close nearfall after double team action from Bad Intentions pick apart Tenzan.
-Stiff assisted powerbomb from Bad Intentions gets a very, very close nearfall. Bernard looks shocked as Tenzan kicks out.
-A 3D on Anderson from TenKoji.
-Tenzan goes up top and hits a huge moonsault for the pin.
CROWD REACTION: This match got the best reactions of the nights. Lots of pops for the near falls and a huge pop for the title change.
STAR(S) OF THE MATCH: Everyone involved was awesome. A perfect tag match. Lots of drama and an emotional win for the reunited TenKoji. Bad Intentions were very gracious in their loss and had a spectacular title reign.
WINNER: Tenzan moonsault on Bernard.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This match was the best of the night by far. Great match that highlighted the strengths of everyone involved and had great drama to it.
7. NJPW vs. NOAH BATTLE CONCENTRATION I
Hirooki Goto vs. Takashi Sugiura
ENTRANCES: Goto was wearing a red kabuki wig of some sort, which looked pretty cool. Sugiura had a no nonsense entrance which fit his character’s style.
-Lots of stiff strikes as expected from the two bruisers. Sugiura is one of the stiffest competitors in all of Japan in my opinion.
-After a series of clotheslines, Goto hits a nice spinning lariat that knocks Sugiura loopy.
-Sugiura hits some bruising Yakuza kicks in the corner over and over.
-Lots of “fake outs” where one opponent runs the ropes and the other seems to lose where the other went. Sugiura takes an opportunity with a nice spear.
-Very cringe-worthy german suplex into the corner turnbuckle (or post pad?) from Suguira, dumping Goto on his head.
-Sugiura unloads some running hip attacks, blasting Goto repeatedly. Goto looks done.
-Sugiura gives a dragon suplex and Goto kicks out. Sugiura looks annoyed.
-A brilliant sries of moves from Goto: headbutt, standing lariat, and a weird spin move.
-Goto hits a stalling suplex into a front slam for the pin.
CROWD REACTION: Crowd was into the offense. Goto had his fair share of chants. Sugiura’s no nonsense character isn’t as over with the more flashy New Japan gimmicks. But his moves are brutal and I think that’s what wins the crowds over to him.
STAR(S) OF THE MATCH: The match was obviously made to make Goto look awesome in the face of a beast like Sugiura who gave him quite a beating. Goto looks goods coming out of this match beating a tough competitor and former GHC Heavyweight Champion.
WINNER: Goto with the Shouten Kai (suplex into front slam) on Sugiura.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This was a pleasant suprise for me as I was expecting a “by the book” sort of match with these two, with lots of stiff strikes and that would be about it. But this was one of the best matches on the card.
8. FIGHTING WITHOUT HONOR OR HUMANITY
Togi Makabe vs. Yoshihiro Takayama
ENTRANCES: Crowd loves Makabe. He’s sort of a wild man take on Bruiser Brody. Not quite as wild, but has that appeal. Takayama looks very imposing compared to Makabe.
-Takayama’s offense is by far the most brutal looking in all of puroresu. When he does back suplexes and germans they have this sort of slow motion, car crash effect. I’m saying this in a good way. His moves look like they really hurt. Especially his repeated knee lifts.
-This was Takayama’s match. He brutalized Makabe for the first part even hitting a drop kick!
-Lots and lots of knee lifts from Takayama.
-Makabe answers a big boot from Takayama with a lariat and hits a gigantic powerslam.
-Biggest spot of the night has to be the ending sequence when Makabe hits an avalanche release german suplex from the top (also known as Spider Suplex.) Then finishes him off with a flying knee drop to the back of the head.
CROWD REACTION: Huge pop for the finishing sequence. Unbelievable to see live. Takayama’s offense all got groans from the audience. As if to say “damn, that looks like it hurts.”
STAR(S) OF THE MATCH: Another match, like Goto’s, which was intended to make Makabe look strong, especially after the prolonged beat down from Takayama at the beginning.
WINNER: Makabe with King Kong Knee Drop (top rope knee drop)
FINAL THOUGHTS: Nice match with some stiff strikes and the insane Spider Suplex from Makabe.
9. NJPW vs. NOAH BATTLE CONCENTRATION II
CHAOS Top Team: Shinsuke Nakamura and Toru Yano vs. GHC Heavyweight Champion Go Shiozaki and Naomichi Marufuji
ENTRANCES: Nakamura and Yano make separate entrances. Shiozaki has a standard entrance. It’s easy to spot the NOAH guys as they don’t seem to fit in stylistically with the New Japan guys. This is the first time I’ve really noticed how NOAH is more straight-up puroresu and New Japan is more like sports entertainment (although the good kind.)
Marufuji is wearing a cool red Hayabusa style mask for his ring entrance. Not sure if that was by design or not. I’d love to see another Hayabusa type gimmick in Japan. Some of the most popular characters in Japan are masked or have painted faces (Hayabusa, Tiger Mask, Great Muta, Great Sasuke, Ultimo Dragon, etc.)
-There’s a buzz when Nakamura and Marufuji face off. Looking forward to seeing a possible show down with them. Nakamura always gets people buzzing it seems. Same thing happened when he faced off with Suwama at the ALL TOGETHER show in Tokyo.
-Yano has lots of funny moments in this match. Messing with Shiozaki’s hair and acting like a bully in general.
-Marufuji stands on Yano’s face.
-Yano has it out for Shiozaki’s hair as I think I saw him grab a pair of scissors from somewhere and try to cut it.
-Yano takes off the post guard and throws Marufuji into it.
-Nakamura swaggers around and beats up on a weakened Marufuji.
-Yano hits a stalling brainbuster and a dropkick.
-Shiozaki gets in some of his signature chops in and flying shoulder tackle.
-Yano does his “RVD” style taunt, which the crowd chants with him. He pulls hair again. The crowd pops for all his heel antics.
-A series of awesome kicks from Nakamura and Marufuji. Lucky for Marufuji, Nakamura misses two round house kicks that looked dangerous.
-When Nakamura goes for the Boma Ye, Marufuji counters by kicking the crap out of Nakamura’s knee.
-Shiranui from Marujui gets big pop.
-A series of reversals and cradles from Yano and Shiozaki result in the Go Flasher for the pin.
-In a strange sequence, it appeared as if Marufuji was trying to break up the pin from Shiozaki twice. Why would he break up the pin for his own team? I didn’t understand that.
CROWD REACTION: The crowd loved Nakamura and Yano. Especially Yano’s cheap tactics. They popped big for all of them. I’d say Yano was one of the most over wrestlers on the whole show. Nakamura is one of the those wrestlers that people just get excited about. He should stay in the main event scene for a long time.
STAR(S) OF THE MATCH: Even though they lost, Yano and Nakamura were absolutely the stars of the match. Specifically Yano, who the crowd seems to like more and more.
WINNER: Shiozaki with the Go Flasher on Yano.
FINAL THOUGHTS: As a bully type of heel, Yano is really over. I’d love to see him transition to a bigger role as he gets some of the best reactions on any card I’ve seen him on.
10. GENIUS FACES GENIUS
Tetsuya Naito vs. Keiji Mutoh
ENTRANCES: Mutoh comes out to a big pop with a video showing him throughout the years. The crowd is excited for Naito as they are chanting his name over and over.
-Most of this match was dragon screw leg whips from Mutoh and working the leg. He must have hit like 20 dragon screws in this match.
-Naito gets some nice moves in, but everytime he gets a flurry of offense, Mutoh schools him again and takes him down.
-Mutoh hits repeated Shining Wizards on Naito throughout the match, which Naito keeps kicking out of.
-This match had the slowest pace on the card (not that it’s a bad thing) and had lots of back and forth mat work.
-Naito hits a huge Frankensteiner on Mutoh for a nearfall but misses the Stardust Press after a series of suplexes and slams.
-After several Shining Wizards, Naito collapses and Mutoh hits a moonsault for the win.
CROWD REACTION: Crowd seemed convinced that Naito would have a “passing the torch” moment with Mutoh and they didn’t pop as big as I’d expected when Mutoh won. They seemed confused by Naito ignoring the hand shake after the match.
Tons of Naito chants. I wonder if New Japan missed a chance to strike while the iron was hot. A win over Mutoh would have been huge for Naito. Perhaps a heel turn is in store for Naito, but I don’t see why. He’s more over than Tanahashi or at least tonight he was.
STAR(S) OF THE MATCH: Can’t really say. The match was designed to show how the younger version of Mutoh (Naito) could hang with a man he’s idolized. He hung with him, but couldn’t pull off the victory. I’m hoping this isn’t another stall in the push for Naito, though it looks like it is.
WINNER: Mutoh with a moonsault
FINAL THOUGHTS: I feel like the right person won, but on the wrong night. I think Mutoh should have had a series of matches with Naito where he bests him and then had them square off at Wrestle Kingdom where Mutoh would finally be beaten by the younger mirror image of himself. I understand wanting to protect Mutoh’s legacy, but not really sure why they did it at the expense of one of their hottest stars.
11. IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match
Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Minoru Suzuki
ENTRANCES: In a video package, Mutoh makes fun of Tanahashi’s “I love everyone” babyface persona. He simulates flipping back his hair. That gets a laugh from the crowd. Both men make their standard entrances, Tanahashi with the awesome video package that highlights all of the previous champions. I love seeing that.
-The two chain wrestle at the beginning. Suzuki manages to get Tanahashi on the top rope and does an abdominal stretch. Ouch.
-Suzuki catches Tanahashi off a dive and chokes him, dragging him up the ramp.
-Suzuki goes for a piledriver on the ramp, but Tanahashi back body drops him instead.
-In a funny spot, Suzuki does leg exercises on the mat as they referee counts a downed Tanahashi after Suzuki lays him out.
-Suzuki his three sick headbutts. He laughs at Tanahashi’s offense.
-Tanahashi hits a flying forearm for a big pop.
-When Tanahashi goes for a splash to the outside, Suzuki locks in a cross arm-breaker over the top rope.
-Tanahashi goes for his finisher (frog splash) but Suzuki blocks it with double knees.
-Tanahashi comes up bleeding from the mouth after a capture german suplex from Suzuki.
-When Suzuki locks in the choke again, Tanahashi fades and the crowd rallies behind him.
-Small chant for Suzuki after he kicks out of one finisher.
-Tanahashi hits one frog splash on Suzuki’s back and another on his front for the three count.
CROWD REACTION: Tanahashi is definitely still the top star in New Japan from the way the crowd got behind him. He’s an absolutely fantastic wrestler, but I think it was a foregone conclusion he was going to win. Suzuki is a strong challenger and made the match very believable. I thought he was going to win several times.
Tanahashi had a lot of the crowd behind him in this match, but it didn’t seem as enthusiastic as last year. When he won last year, the place exploded. When he won this year the crowd cheered, but it was like they already expected it.
STAR(S) OF THE MATCH: Tanahashi’s win cements his legacy as one of the best champions in Japanese history, having a record 11 title defenses. The match was designed for that moment.
WINNER: Tanahashi following the High Fly Flow (two frog splashes) on Suzuki
FINAL THOUGHTS: Wrestle Kingdom VII definitely will need something new going into their main event next year. Tanahashi victorious two years in a row may lose it’s lustre. I expect a title change early in the year and there are tons of strong challengers waiting in the wings (Goto, Makabe, Okada, maybe Naito down the line.)
Okada coming out seemed kind of bizarre at the end, especially when he just kind of shrugged after Tanahashi basically said, “I’m tired right now” (at least I guess that’s what he said.) A lengthy air guitar post-match celebration left the fans going home happy. I think they did the air guitar bit maybe two or three too many times though.
WRESTLE KINGDOM VI AFTERMATH:
New tag champions for both heavyweight and junior heavyweight divisions shows that New Japan is shifting around some talent. I’m not sure who future challengers will be for either of the new champion teams, but I figure there will be a series of rematches in the near future.
Tanahashi is still champion and goes down in history as one of the greateast champions in Japanese history. Not sure how much longer this can last though.
I was hoping for my surprises and special guests, but there weren’t any. Naito losing to Mutoh could be a big blow to his push, but it shouldn’t be. I hope they don’t turn him heel as I think he has potential to be the next big babyface to step in the main event role.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Looks like Okada is going to be the first challenger for Tanahashi. He’s a very intriguing pick for a challenger as his new character seems to be very aloof. Very strange considering most heel challengers are more tough guys or arrogant. Okada just seems like he’s above everything. A very intereting character going forward.
TenKoji should get a series of excellent rematches from Bad Intentions. Perhaps even a series with Nakamura and Yano (although I rather see both pushed as singles wrestlers.)
MVP looks strong going forward in the New Year and I expect more matches from him and Masato Tanaka.
Naito needs to get a big win to get back on track.
Apollo 55 are a great team, but I question taking the titles off NRC so quickly. Not sure where both teams go from here besides continuing their feud.
The New Japan vs. NOAH matches were both very good. The stark difference between NOAH and NJPW is becoming more apparent to me.
Tanahashi is probably the longest running champion in the world right now. Whoever beats him should be a big deal. I’m hoping they’re planning for a fresh new face to take over whenever that happens. Much kudos to Tanahashi for being a strong champion and in an industry where hot-shotting happens so much, staying relevent in the main event.
So that’s another Wrestle Kingdom in the books. Looking forward to next year!
1. TenKoji title win
2. Tanahashi victory
5. MVP and Shelton Benjamin
4. Bad Intentions (although some pops for them)
Match of the Night: Bad Intentions vs. TenKoji