I really liked the opening video they used, showing the history of both New Japan and All Japan and generations of great wrestlers from both East and West that came and went throughout the years.Welcome to Tokyo Dome! New Year Funny Waltz:
Masanobu Fuchi, El Samurai & Ryusuke Taguchi VS Kikutaro, Nobutaka Araya & Akira Raijin
Fun comedy match to kick off the show. It was good to see 30,000+ fan reacting to Kikutaro’s comedy antics, even if he hasn’t done anything new in a while. The commentator put over Fuchi big time, and Raijin & Taguchi had a good showing in the ring. Interesting to see Raijin developing a finisher called the Raijin Buster, which is like a sit-out Emerald Frosion, and I’m enjoying Taguchi’s “Funky Weapon” gimmick, even if he does look a bit like a mini Mohammed Yone. Taguchi picked up the winning hitting the Dodon on Kikutaro, after Kikutaro got slammed by Fuchi’s backdrop suplex and Samurai’s reverse DDT finishers.
Once again, it almost feels like a crime that Araya is nothing more than a comedic punching bag for Kikutaro. He had the least ring time, and that was only for a comedy bit. After the match he even got low-kicked by Kikutaro when asked to do Taguchi’s victory dance, than Araya cried walked out alone with a lone spotlight on him while some sad enka music played. Something like that would imply a sympathetic type push, but of course nothing came of it.Match Rating: *
Artistic Tag Team Battle:
Jado & Gedo VS NOSAWA Rongai & MAZADA
Fun to hear there was ONE NOSAWA fan in the audience somewhere that tried to get a “Rongai!” chant going, but no one joined in!
Rather interesting to see Jado & Gedo in more of a babyface role here, as NOSAWA & MAZADA out-heeled them and were in charge of most of the match due to dirty tactics like hand-biting and eye-gouging! This match was great with a lot of action, and they even did the MAZADA countering a tombstone piledriver into a flipping tombstone piledriver spot that he did before in his junior title match with Shuji Kondo last year! Jado & Gedo were finally able to out-heel the Tokyo Gurentai when Gedo brought in a drum stick to distract the referee while Jado hit NOSAWA with a low blow, and that lead to them hitting their trademark super-bomb followed by the Superfly Splash from Gedo for the win.
I’m just wondering how much they could have upped the anti if Jado & Gedo’s IWGP junior tag titles were on the line here.Match Rating: ***
Rockin’ Your Hearts of Fxxxing Outlaws:
Togi Makabe, Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii VS D-Lo Brown, Buchanan & Travis Tomko
A fun brawl between six big heels. Buchanan was wearing his old WWE gear for some reason. Tomko looked really good here, and fit in well with his ex-WWE fellows as the three of them have the similarity of size, power and agility. I liked watching Ishii finally get some kind of a direction now, and it’s good to see Makabe come into his own his new death match champion gimmick. I thought the ending of the match could have been a bit better than Buchanan getting hit in the back by a chair and Makabe hitting a big lariat for the pin. Match Rating: *
Riki Choshu, Manabu Nakanishi, Takashi Iizuka & Naofumi Yamamoto VS Giant Bernard, TARU, Suwama & RO’Z
I enjoyed all the bits at the beginning when TARU was getting his ass kicked cause I’ve always found him annoying as heck and hate the way he bullies people even if it is his character. Then Yamamoto goes and totally flubs a float-over DDT. I was a bit worried when Nakanishi got the hot tag cause we hadn’t seen much of Suwama in action yet, but I enjoyed the power display of Nakanishi as he managed to get huge RO’Z up for the Argentine Backbreaker for a few seconds. Bernard’s sit-out Last Ride was just awesome, and he even managed a few rotations with Yamamoto above his head before slamming him down! Choshu went wild with Riki Lariats and Iizuka tossed Suwama around with a few Exploders. Suwama scores the win for the Voodoo Murders pinning Yamamoto with a backdrop-hold, Yamamoto’s own finisher.
Not sure why Bernard didn’t like that Suwama scored the win, and that lead to an altercation between the team mates, and TARU received a choke-bomb from Bernard for trying to play peace keeper. Match Rating: **
Top of the World, Arts of War:
Koji Kanemoto, Tiger Mask, Kaz Hayashi, TAKA Michinoku & Wataru Inoue VS Jushin Thunder Liger, Minoru, Milano Collection AT, Shuji Kondo & “brother” YASSHI
All I can say after watching this is that I’d really like to see a Minoru-Kaz singles match! The two of them work really well together and it’s a waste that they didn’t follow up the animosity they had against each other here with anything.
You had ten men in this match and they all got to show something. We had a comedy spot between TAKA & YASSHI where they grab each other by the balls, there was a lot of ring-to-floor diving, and everyone actually just worked well together here. I think maybe on Liger didn’t do much in the match, with more focus on everyone else other than when the CTU/VM team were working together with multi-man beat downs on whoever was unlucky enough to be in there. Even Tiger Mask only came in at the end to get the win over YASSHI with a great tiger suplex-hold, but was still a great match overall.Match Rating: ***1/2
Shinsuke Nakamura VS Toshiaki Kawada
This was a rather interesting encounter as it features the future ace of New Japan vs. the past ace of All Japan. They did a lot of mat work and both targeted each other’s right arms. Nakamura controlled the mat game, but Kawada easily controlled the standing and striking game, forcing Nakamura to keep him grounded with submission locks. Kawada even lost his temper at one point and battered Nakamura on the mat, kicking and stomping at him like a mad man. There was also a fun no-sell sequence where both men tossed each other back and forth with suplexes, Kawada using his dangerous backdrops, and Nakamura busting out his modified backdrop, a German suplex and a tiger suplex, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen him used before. Nakamura even countered a lariat from Kawada with a SWEET flying cross armbreaker.
A few years ago this would probably have been a heavy squash in Kawada’s favor, Nakamura definitely showed his growth as he took everything Kawada dished out, and managed to kick out at just one from Kawada’s powerbomb and a two from Kawada’s brainbuster! It took a rather sick kick right to Nakamura’s face as he dove to try to dodge it to finally put Nakamura down for the 3 count after an intense physical battle.Match Rating: ***1/2
AJPW Triple Crown:
Minoru Suzuki [C] VS Yuji Nagata
Seems like Suzuki can only have good exciting matches when he’s up against someone with a serious rivalry behind him. This wasn’t the standard MiSuzuki borefest that most of his matches tend to be thanks to Nagata bringing a Hell lot of intensity due to his hatred for Suzuki! The match only seemed to slow down for a bit when they were on the outside doing their blade jobs, but of course when Nagata bleeds it only means Demon Nagata is in the house! Unfortunately when it came to the finish, Nagata probably has no one to blame but himself for the loss since he pulled up Suzuki at 2 instead of letting referee Kyohei Wada count 3 after a sick Thunder Death Driver. That lead to Suzuki getting a second wind and rallying back to clamp on his sleeper hold which lead to a referee stoppage, which sucks since Nagata wasn’t completely out yet and the hold hadn’t been applied for too long.
Still, this match had major crowd heat going for it from start to finish, and both men turned it up.Match Rating: ****
NJPW IWGP Heavyweight Championship:
Hiroshi Tanahashi [C] VS Taiyo Kea
Damn, did Kea make Tanahashi look like a million bucks here or what?!?
Kea dominated most of the match and was seemingly one step ahead of Tanahashi every step of the way, finding ways to counter and break up any offense Tanahashi could dish out. Credit to Tanahashi for willing to take some big moves like the TKO on the exposed floor and a head-spiking Surfing Suplex. Tanahashi also kicked out of the high-angle powerbomb that Kea used to put Kawada away in his only Triple Crown defense, as well as kicking out of the TKO 34th, but then again, Kawada kicked out of three of those consecutively so so much for it’s credibility anyway. Kea even busted out something new in the form of a sit-out powerbomb for another near fall.
On offense, Tanahashi got in most of his moves, but like I’ve said in the past they just look too weak to be credible. I liked that he modified the Dragon Sleeper into a Final Cut, and that would even make for a credible finisher. I also liked the trapped armed German suplex-hold he did before hitting a release dragon suplex followed by the High Fly Flow frog splash for the win.
It really irks me that they couldn’t have booked this as a more even back and forth contest instead of having Tanahashi play the champion in peril, but the crowd reacted well and got into it the more Tanahashi kicked out of Kea’s big moves and got any good offense in. Hate to say it, but I did find myself enjoying seeing Kea carry the match, and the only thing that would have really made this match better would have been for Tanahashi to get more offense in and give Kea more near falls like what Kea did for him.Match Rating: ***1/2
Super Dream Tag Match – This Is Wrestle Kingdom!
Masahiro Chono & Keiji Mutoh VS Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima
I just couldn’t help but notice despite how hard both teams were working, the crowd was just dead silent for most of this one, which really took away from the feel of the match. Then again, the match also felt like it didn’t have much structure at times when both teams just threw everything tooth-n-nail at each other like they were doing anything they could to get a reaction from the crowd. The fans did pop for the double submission Chono & Mutoh did to TenKoji, but were silent for when TenKoji did the same to their former mentors. The crowd also popped for a wicked double Shining Wizard/Shining Yakuza Kick which scrambled Tenzan’s brains for a bit, and loved it when both seniors did Hashimoto’s overhead chop barrage and jumping DDT, but nothing really seemed to get the crowd into it, not even the near falls at the end when Chono kicked out of Tenzan’s big moonsault. When Chono finally scored the win over Tenzan with the cross-legged STF, that also felt like it came out of nowhere. It also did jack for Tenzan since it looked like he tapped too soon and wasn’t even trying to fight to get to the ropes to break the hold.
Overall, I think this match should have gone longer as Tenzan and Kojima didn’t get to uncork their entire arsenal even, and both teams definitely could have done more to actually build something. But of course, the whole reason for this match was just to pay tribute to the late Shinya Hashimoto.Match Rating: **1/2
A lot of good entertaining stuff on this show. Definitely check out the big 3 singles matches on the card, and the Hashimoto tribute at the end was a nice touch, if not the only reason for the main event tag match that was a little lackluster.
Labels: AJPW, NJPW