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NJPW Wrestle Kingdom VIII
January 4, 2014
-From Tokyo, Japan.
IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championship:
The Young Bucks (Nick and Matt Jackson) © vs. The Time Splitters (Alex Shelley and KUSHIDA) vs. Suzuki-gun (Taka Michinoku and Taichi) vs. Forever Hooligans (Alex Koslov and Rocky Romero)
The Time Splitters drive an effiní DELOREAN onto the stage. Thatís badass and they know it. Suzuki-gun try to top that entrance with an entourage of girls. Itís a bit surreal seeing all these American independent stars performing in front of a capacity crowd at the Tokyo Dome, with major league production values. Koslov attempts to sing the Russian national anthem but is interrupted by Young Buck super kicks. The match is off and running with quick double team spots by the Bucks. The Time Splitters signal dives, but the Hooligans trip them up. Romero goes nuts with repeated clotheslines on Shelley, and Koslov lifts him for a running knee to the chest. Koslov gets in his Russian dancing but Suzuki-gun toss him and take turns mocking his customs. Everyone locks up for a quadruple suplex. Cue the diving sequence! The Bucks top it off with a superplex to the floor on the others. Everyone is nearly counted out, which incites some laughter from the crowd. The match breaks down with everyone picking their spots in the ring. The Young Bucks hit a nasty looking springboard Tombstone piledriver combo for a near fall. They finish Taiche with MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK at 10:35. Nothing like a good spot-fest to open any show, ***.
Winners and still IWGP Jr. Tag Team Champions: The Young Bucks
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship:
Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr.) © vs. Bullet Club (Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows, with Tonga)
Anderson and Gallows are playing military men and fire fake weapons during their entrance. Smith and Archer ride motorcycles onto the stage. Looks like all four of these guys are doing just fine without WWE. Gallows and Archer kicks it off with the exchanging of big boots. The Bullet Club breaks up some KES teamwork and isolate Davey Boy. I have to check my stopwatch at this point, as they seem to be wrestling in slow motion. Smith counters Gallows with a suplex and makes the hot tag. The crowd is behind Archer as he wipes Gallows out with a cross body. Full Nelson Slam by Archer gets a 2 count. Archer rips off OLD SCHOOL, but Tonga trips him up. Archer blocks a superplex and big boots Anderson on the ropes, setting up a neat modified power bomb. Archer attacks Tonga, who takes a double power bomb from KES. The match breaks down as the teams save each other from finishers. Archer choke slams the life out of Anderson for only 2! Anderson counters with an Ace Crusher, but Davey Boy saves. Bullet Club put Archer down with a neck breaker combo at 10:26! This got better as it went along, these guys are all agile for their size, **Ĺ.
Winners and new IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions: Bullet Club
NWA Heavyweight Championship:
Rob Conway © vs. Satoshi Kojima
They trot out Harley Race to pretend the NWA title is still worth a damn. Race can barely move, but he can still punch out Conwayís ring announcer. Conway poses arrogantly, but holds his own against Kojima. Conway crotches Kojima on the ropes for a drop-kick. Kojima shakes it off with a DDT onto the apron. Conway rakes the eyes and unloads chops. Kojima turns it around with rapid fire chops! Conway softens the back with the steel barricade and a sit-out power bomb. Conway boxes Kojimaís ears and gets a great heel reaction. Kojima rebounds with a Brainbuster for 2. Conwayís hired goon applies a sleeper from the apron and gets taken down by Hiroyoshi Tenzan. Kojima nails a spear and a clothesline to the back of the head! A Kojima lariat ends this at 8:26! The match never left second gear, but had great crowd heat, **.
Winner and new NWA Heavyweight Champion: Satoshi Kojima
-Kojima and Harley Race pose with the NWA title. Thatís nice, even if itís pretend time.
Kazushi Sakuraba & Yuji Nagata vs. Rolles and Daniel Gracie
Sakuraba and Nagata come out wearing masks and are joined by what appears to be a youth wrestling team all decked out in their gear. Why not. Rolles Gracie starts against Sakuraba and they imitate MMA rather than try to have a normal wrestling match. If you ask me, the only thing more boring than MMA is worked MMA. Either that or golf. Anyway, the match threatens to become entertaining when Nagata throws some stiff kicks and then gets isolated by the Gracies. Sakuraba gets a tag and unloads on Rolles, but fails to apply an arm breaker. Sakuraba saves himself from isolation and Nagata joins him in dishing out stiff kicks. Back drop driver by Nagata only gets a 2 count on Rolles. Rolles blocks another back drop and chokes Nagata with his gi for the disqualification at 9:49. This felt so much longer. This was pretty embarrassing at times, but they mostly held it together, *ľ.
Winners via DQ: Yuji Nagata and Kazushi Sakuraba
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki and Shelton X Benjamin, with Taka Michinoku and Taichi) vs. Toru Yano and The Great Muta
Muta is wearing a bad-ass cyborg mask and sprays green mist to intimidate Suzuki. Benjamin tries his luck against Muta and trades holds in an even match. Muta pulls some scaffolding out from under the ring but is talked out of using it. Yano tags and looks thrilled at the opportunity to hurt Shelton, but Suzuki cuts him off. All four men brawl around ringside in a rather dull manner. Back to the ring, Benjamin and Suzuki isolate Yano. Muta considers using a chair after some interference from Taichi, but the ref talks him down. Yano oversells a suplex so no one notices him undoing some turnbuckle padding and knocks Shelton into it! Muta gets the hot tag and unloads on Shelton, using a chair at ringside. Yano and Suzuki make tags and gleefully stiff one another. Shelton spinebusters Yano into position for a Suzuki arm breaker. Suzuki locks a sleeper on Yano, but Muta breaks it with a Shining Wizard! Muta cleans house and sprays red mist in Taichiís face. Yano tries to use a chair but eats a sleeper. Yano escapes the sleeper with a blind low blow and Mutaís green mist allows him the victory at 12:02. The last few minutes saved this one from mediocrity, **ľ.
Winners: Toru Mano and The Great Muta
-Super long intermission, but Youtube letís me skip it all!
King of Destroyer Match:
Bad Luck Fale vs. Togi Makabe
Makabe just canít wait to start hitting Fale with stiff forearms. Makabe wins the slugfest, knocking Fale to the floor. Fale reverses an Irish whip to send Makabe sailing into the barricade. Fale wraps a chain around Makabeís neck and drags him around the ring. Makabe meets the 10 count, so Fale continues softening his back. Makabe takes some punishment and desperately throws a standing lariat. Makabe slams Fale in place for a flying knee, but misses. Makabe wraps Faleís chain around his fist for some punishment. Makabe sets up a table but doesnít get the chance to use it as Fale gets back into the fight. Fale delivers a big time Razorís Edge! Makabe barely meets the 10 count and suffers a scoop slam. Fale misses a Frog Splash but recovers. Fale sets Makabe on the table but turns his back and gets power bombed off the apron through the table! Makabe takes control and knocks Fale out with a pair of knee drops at 15:05. This was somewhat meandering up until Fale started showing off his moveset. Overall, a middle of the road brawl, **Ĺ.
Winner: Togi Makabe
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Hirooki Goto
They feel each other out, but Shibata sneaks in an open hand slap. Shibata counters with another slap but misses a fast kick. Snapmare by Shibata leads to an aggressive Figure Four. Goto surprises with a running spin heel kick, but Shibata shakes it off. Shibata wins a forearm exchange and nails a running drop-kick! Shibata is flat-out scary when he quickens the pace, connecting with more face shots. Goto explodes with a clothesline and lights Shibata up with kicks. They trade forearms until theyíre both good and angry. Hard clothesline gets 2 for Goto, as does a suplex. Abdominal stretch into a back suplex by Shibata is nice and violent. They trade backdrop drivers and target each otherís head. They sprint through a nasty exchange of stiff attacks and quick near falls. Shibata uses a sleeper to set up a shoulder breaker! Goto comes back by repeatedly dropping Shibata headfirst onto his knee. Shibata reverses a modified DDT and they both go down. They trade disgusting head butts and both go down again. Goto puts together a string of hard shots and hits the Shouten Kai for the win at 15:31. I hope they have plenty of ice on hand backstage after this one. Stiff and nasty, if you like that sort of thing. This style of match isnít my favorite, but I have to respect the hard work, ***Ĺ.
Winner: Hirooki Goto
-Goto and Shibata help each other up and celebrate their fighting spirit.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship:
Prince Devitt © (with Bullet Club) vs. Kota Ibushi
Devitt emerges from a casket and is dressed up as a demon (looks like the creature on Disturbed album covers). Toto, this isnít Stamford anymore. Ibushi gets the upper hand, but the Bullet Club members are more than happy to distract him. Ibushi gets pulled to ringside for a beat down. This gives Devitt the advantage he needs to dish out an extensive beating (with occasional help from his friends). Devitt finally misses a double stomp, allowing Ibushi to fight off interfering Young Bucks and hit a springboard moonsault on the entire Bullet Club. Springboard drop-kick gets 2 for Ibushi, as does another moonsault out of the corner. They exchange counters and Ibushi is nearly pinned after a blind weapon shot from the Bullet Club. Ibushi hits an AWESOME single arm dead lift suplex for a close near fall. Devitt shoves Ibushi off the top rope and earns a breather. Officials finally get rid of the Bullet Club. Devitt hits an impressive double stomp for only 2. Kota desperately connects with a mule kick on the turnbuckles and a top rope hurricanrana!! Devitt kicks out! Devitt dodges the 450 splash and nails a clothesline. Devittís Brainbuster only gets 2. Nasty double stomp by Devitt but Ibushi kicks out yet again! Kota surprises with a Pele kick, followed by a roundhouse to the head. German suplex by Ibushi and a lariat! Sit-out power bomb by Ibushi is only good for 2, but a Phoenix Splash ends it at 16:19. This was downright thrilling after Devittís goons were tossed out, culminating in a truly satisfying finish, ****.
Winner and new IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion: Kota Ibushi
-El Desperado enters the ring and gives Ibushi a black bouquet. They didnít waste any time establishing a challenger for Ibushi, this is refreshing to see in this day and age.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship:
Kazuchika Okada © vs. Tetsuya Naito
They pace themselves in the early going with the feeling out portion. They quicken the pace and Naito wins the exchange. Naito earns the first near fall with a running back senton, but mainly targets the back. Okada drop-kicks Naito off the apron and knocks him down on the ramp. Back to the ring, Okada takes control with a slingshot senton. Okada slows it down, targeting the head. Naito fights back with a slingshot drop-kick. Naito builds some steam, repeatedly clubbing the head. Okada looks for a Tombstone on the floor, but Naito counters with a tornado DDT off the apron! Naito takes control and loses his cool with repeated head butts. Okada drop-kicks Naito over the ropes and follows with a DDT onto the concrete! Naito avoids a count-out but Okada nails a flying elbow! Naito reverses into a DDT. Naito builds some steam, hitting a German suplex for 2. Okada finds his second (or third) wind and applies his modified Cobra Clutch. Naito blocks a Tombstone and delivers a Frankensteiner! Dragon Suplex by Naito only gets 2. Naitoís momentum ends with a missed corkscrew senton. Okada retaliates with a modified shoulder breaker and a TKO. Naito nearly steals it with a roll-up and connects a judo throw. They trade stiff shots and counters until Okada finally connects with the Tombstone. Naito tries to shake it off but he suffers a second Tombstone! Okadaís lariat ends it at 30:51. This was long for the sake of being long, as there really wasnít a compelling story to sink my teeth into (other than Naito being an underdog compared to the champion). The lack of a clear face or heel also caused the match to drag (both men behaved heelishly at times). It evens out to a ***ľ match, as the work was technically solid, but I doubt Iíd want to see this again.
Winner and still IWGP Heavyweight Champion: Kazuchika Okada
-Stan Hansen is in attendance for the main event! I seriously, no joke, thought he was dead. Iím not trying to be funny, I honestly cannot believe heís here.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship:
Shinsuke Nakamura © vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Marty Friedman; probably best-known from Megadeth; plays Tanahashiís theme live. NJPW just won 10 cool points (for those keeping track, WWE lost 10 cool points for having Diddy at Wrestlemania). Nakamura has girl dancers for his entrance, and they do some seriously PG-13 moves. They have a tentative start, with Nakamura getting a chance to show off his quirky personality. Tanahashi scores a single leg atomic drop and continues targeting the leg. Tanahashi flies into a gut buster counter, leading to more attacks to the ribs from Nakamura. In-ring psychology FTW! Tanahashi counters with a leg screw and builds some steam attacking the freshly injured knee. Nakamura turns it around, resuming his ribs attacks. Nakamura misses a guillotine leg drop on the apron and takes a nasty tumble onto the concrete. Tanahashi scores a flying cross body to ringside! Tanahashi snaps Nakamuraís leg into the ropes, but gets suddenly caught in a triangle choke. Tanahashi reverses into a Cloverleaf! Tanahashi absorbs a head butt counter and nails a German suplex! Nakamura nails an enziguri, prompting Tanahashi to skin the cat into position for a lung blower. A slugfest turns ugly as Nakamura loses his temper stomping. They fall into the sluggish trap of trading finishers for false finishes that no one is buying. Tanahashi nearly botches a sunset flip bomb, but Nakamura counters it anyway. German suplex gets 2 for Tanahashi, as does a Frog Splash. Flying knee and lariat by Nakamura get near falls that the crowd wakes up for. Tanahashi reapplies the Cloverleaf and transitions into a Styles Clash. Flying cross body and Frog Splash end it for Tanahashi at 23:18. With all the leg punishment Tanahashi had dished out, I would have just let him win it with the Cloverleaf, but whatever. There was a lot to nitpick here, and a worn out crowd didnít do them any favors. I canít go any higher than ***.
Winner and new IWGP Intercontinental Champion: Hiroshi Tanahashi
Final Thoughts: This was my first full NJPW show (after cherry picking the best matches of 2013) and throughout the event I was impressed, frustrated, thrilled, and bored at numerous times. The show was simply too long (about 5 hours with video packages and other content, including a dark match I skipped). There was a lot of great action, but the show peaked early with the Ibushi/Devitt outing. If youíre bored with the North American wrestling scene (like me) itís well worth your time to explore some NJPW, but this probably isnít the show to start with. Thumbs in the middle.
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