Wrestle Kingdom 11 Reaction
By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Jan. 4, professional wrestling and the Tokyo Dome have been a longtime polyamorous relationship, to the point where it has become tradition.
After last year’s Wrestle Kingdom 10 when Shinsuke Nakamura and WWE World Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles stole the show, New Japan Pro Wrestling began to make a global buzz.
With the likes of Bullet Club, Chaos and Los Ingobernables de Japon (LIJ) all in a power struggle, many Titles were up for grabs.
WK has become a haven for big moments and unlikely chances for Champions to retain their belts.
Wrestle Kingdom 11 would be right up there with the greats for a main event that actually dragged “Six Stars” out of one Dave Meltzer.
How did the show fare by our standards? Find out below.
The Pre-Show Breakdown
– The New Japan Pro Rumble that featured “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin, Cheeseburger, Billy Gunn, Bone Soldier, Hiro Saito, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Kuniaki Kobayashi, Manabu Nakanishi, Ryusuke Taguchi, Scott Norton, Tiger Mask, Yoshitatsu and Yuji Nagata was positioned as a way to have “fun” before the night’s 10 matches would begin. Elgin came out first, as Commentators Kevin Kelly/Steve Corino spoke about his return from the injured orbital bone at the hands of IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito. #2 was Gunn, who donned a “Bullet Club Hunter” shirt. Apparently, he was here because he impressed NJPW officials. An immediate Gunn/Elgin standoff saw Gunn have a height advantage. Once the Bone Soldier came in at #3, Elgin/Gunn worked him over. Can we call them ElGunn? Cheeseburger had a big pop upon his entrance as he threw stuffed (you guessed it) cheeseburgers into the crowd. Soldier was eliminated when he charged at CB and went over the top rope. Gunn lured CB over only to punch him. Liger had the biggest reaction unsurprisingly. We then had a CheeseLiger-ElGunn matchup. Gunn gestured Elgin to “Suck it” as he got one in return and was eliminated. Kobayashi’s stint in the match was supposed to be a throwback to his old matches with Tiger Mask. He went after the masks of those who wore them, particularly Liger and TM. We liked the strategic aspect where people pinned others by piling on top of them. Makes more sense that way than elimination one-on-one. It was also cool to see Yoshitatsu rock colored hair and an angry face, a far cry from his “WWECW” days. Saito looked like Stone Cold Steve Austin if he were in his 80’s, but was cool nonetheless. Norton’s appearance was another surprise, as it was brought up that he main-evented a show in 1999 as a former IWGP Heavyweight Champion. He certainly looked more jacked than we remember. Elgin eventually used his power to thrust out eliminations when faced against four men. CB remained resilient and got the crowd into it. It came down to Elgin-CB, as CB was overpowered in the end. Elgin landed the Elgin Bomb to pin CB and win. It was a dominant performance, as Elgin was all business as commentary speculated if he could get back to power.
– The Tiger Mask W-Tiger The Dark match revolved around the anime reboot of “Tiger Mask W,” as it was essentially a live-action battle. TTD sported a dark red mask (played by ACH) and TM the usual (played by Kota Ibushi) as commentary played up TM’s story of his journey and path. The concept was interesting and unique for a show opener. This was what you’d expect from an ACH-Ibushi bout, as they stuck to their signature maneuvers. After a fierce standoff, TTD performed an inverted plancha. The match was also used to hype season two of “Tiger Mask W.” TM cleared TTD from the ring and hit a springboard moonsault (just like Ibushi did several times in the Cruiserweight Classic) for a nice pop. TTD hit a Tombstone Piledriver for a good two-count. In the end, TM hit the Tiger Bomb to get the win. Good action overall, with the overall means to advance the story.
– The IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship match between Roppongi Vice and Champions The Young Bucks was RPG’s Title shot from which they won a prior tournament to receive. It also didn’t hurt to have these four in the ring with each other, as we expected a lot of fun athleticism. For continuity fans, YB sent a message to The Broken Hardys as they walked down the ramp that they themselves were the best tag team in history. It probably also helped that YB were a multitude of Tag Team Champions across various promotions, from Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and Ring Of Honor to even their own custom Superkick Party Championships. This fit their own mission to get all of the gold, so it made sense. A problem with YB in ROH is that even though they’re heels, they’re “cool heels” that slap hands with the fans. None of that here in NJPW, as they purposely sought heat as they backed up the ramps and threatened to walk out. In the end, it was a smart plan to lure RPG in to Superkicks so they could make a run to the ring and beat the 20-count and leave RPG unable to do the same. To their credit, RPG sold the drama and barely made it back in time. The Bucks continued their brash behavior as they worked over Bareta and teased him to tag in Romero. Eventually, Romero overcame that and tagged him in. Brutal spot where Bareta missed a plancha and landed on his back and “missed the padding.” Romero gave YB a double huracanrana and kicked out of Nick Jackson’s springboard 450 splash. Clever finish, as Bareta came to and pushed Nick Jackson off the top upon a More Bang For Your Buck attempt and that allowed Romero to pin Matt Jackson. RPG became the 49th Champions. Good stuff all-around, didn’t see that ending coming.
– The NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championship Gauntlet match between Hangman Page/Bad Luck Fale/Yujiro Takahashi, Jado/Will Ospreay/Yoshi Hashi, Champions David Finlay/Ricochet/Satoshi Kojima and Bushi/Evil/Sanada was chaotic in its own right with nine men in action, but good too. Needless to say, Bullet Club’s entrance was epic on its own, from the scantily-clad women in bunny ears to BLF’s Big Boss Man-esque vibe. Ospreay was a show-stealer early on with his aerial prowess, such as his standing shooting star press after a cartwheel plancha. Page was intense on his own, with a flipping lariat/shooting star shoulder tackle on Ospreay. BC advanced with the pin to face LIJ where those winners would face the Champs. Fast-paced round with a dash of weaponry before LIJ advanced by submission. Liked how Bushi used his own shirt as a choking weapon. Ricochet stood out in a good way as he flew around. Kojima had the crowd going as he performed stiff chops on Evil/Sanada, which Evil stopped. Quite “lucha”-esque as Evil hoisted Ricochet into a Bushi codebreaker. Evil shielded the Referee from seeing Bushi use the mist, which led to his finisher to get the win. In their own style, LIJ were now Champs. Second Title match where the belts changed hands, would be a common theme for the night. Chaos had one win, while LIJ now had another.
– The “American Nightmare” Cody-Juice Robinson match was intriguing enough on paper, given that it was JR’s biggest career singles match, different from his CJ Parker persona of WWE NXT fame. On the other hand, Cody was probably the only talent to ever work WrestleMania, Bound For Glory, Final Battle and Wrestle Kingdom within the same year span. His recent FB heel turn coincided with his NJPW debut as a BC member. Their styles would also mesh well presumably. To no shock, Cody rejected a handshake offer with a gun gesture. Some cool sequences – Cody monkey tossed JR to the floor and attempted a double axe handle off the apron but was caught for a belly-to-belly suplex followed with a barricade cannonball. Cody used the crowd’s cheers for him as a way to get under Corino’s skin, cool stuff. JR showed some intensity in his demeanor, as he dropped a MF-bomb at Cody and hit him with a stiff left to knock him down. With the idea that BC needed the win and JR had sold the knee most of the match, the finish made sense where the Cross Rhodes finally did him in. The post-match angle where Cody spit water into the air on top of Kelly/Corino and tossed the bottle at them was great heat. Eager to see what develops with this Cody-Corino stuff.
– The ROH World Championship match between Adam Cole and Champion Kyle O’Reilly was a FB rematch along with Cole’s rematch clause. That showed how big the ROH-NJPW relationship is that even the ROH belt was defended at WK11. Smart idea to blend this personal feud onto the card. Cole had a different theme song here that emphasized his namesake catchphrase, as commentary pushed his mission to become a three-time ROH World Champion. To even add to the “Title match” feel, we had Todd Sinclair serve as Referee. A surprising start as the Code Of Honor was obeyed, before Cole spit in O’Reilly’s face. Funny spots when Cole attempted to shout his “Bay Bay” catchphrase and was twice met with a rear naked choke from O’Reilly. Rules apparently were out the window as Cole used a chair on O’Reilly’s shoulder. Quite even-handed action. Cole hit the Last Shot for a near-fall, before the two exchanged in a hockey fight-esque fist exchange. Intense was the correct word for it. Cole hit the Brainbuster, but couldn’t follow up. Hell, this match might’ve actually been better than FB. Cole hit another Last Shot, this time with O’Reilly’s head landing on his knee. Another near-fall. Damn. Desperate, Cole landed four superkicks and a Last Shot to get the decisive win. A little shock, but perhaps this was done because O’Reilly’s deal with ROH was set to expire?
– The Three-Team IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship match between Toru Yano/Tomohiro Ishii, Togi Makabe/Tomoaki Honma and Champions Tama Tonga/Tanga Loa was more heavy-handed faction warfare at its finest. They also included Yano’s thievery where he possessed Guerrilla Of Destiny’s own belts, the World Tag League trophies and even Corino’s wallet. Knowing that, beginning with GOD’s assault on Yano outside made sense. Plenty of fast-paced, high-impact maneuvers with close calls for various teams. A nice finish after a plethora of F-bombs, probably 13 or 14 to be exact. Yano landed a double low blow so Ishii could hit his double lariat when the first attempt went unsold. Now that Chaos “owned” the Tag Team Division, the irony was now that the team that went in with the belts as false Champions were now the real ones.
– The IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship match between Champion Kushida and Hiromu “Time Bomb” Takahashi offered a great story both in and out of the ring. Kushida was in his own war with LIJ. Takahashi, their newest member, presented the toughest challenge yet for the “Ace of the Junior Heavyweight Division.” In a hell of a start, Kushida was dropkicked off the top rope to the floor. The “Time Bomb” moniker represented a repackaging of sorts for the former Kamaitachi. Takahashi landed an incredible sunset flip powerbomb off the apron to the floor, a spot shown on replay several times. To sell the moment, they brought a ringside doctor down to take a look and had the Referee tease stopping the match. Takahashi struck further with more stomps and kicks. Kushida eventually battled back with a monkey toss/cartwheel dropkick combo. Takahashi responded with a double German suplex, the second rolled into after the first. Takahashi’s attempt to hit a huracanrana out of the ring came up short, so he hit a seated senton instead. In true Sasha Banks fashion, he hit a double knees off the top rope for a near-fall. Kushida avoided a second apron sunset flip powerbomb and locked in an armbar for 13 seconds. In a will to make his rival submit, he rolled Takahashi back inside the ring. The crowd popped as Kushida went for the Hoverboard briefly to no avail. They traded stiff closed fists and knocked each other to the canvas. The crowd got louder, maybe the loudest they’d been all night. Kushida ran towards Takahashi and got thrown into the corner with a belly-to-belly suplex. Incredible near-fall when Takahashi reversed a Hoverboard attempt on the top rope. Takahashi eventually hit his Spin-Around Driver to get the win. To tell the rise of Takahashi’s smart and what an incredible bout that was. Mark another belt that changes hands too.
– The NEVER Openweight Championship match between Champion “The Wrestler” Katsuyori Shibata and Hirooki Goto was classic storytelling, reliant upon Goto’s constant shortcomings to win the big one, highlighted by his flirtation with retirement after his loss to Okada in Feb. 2016. It was a personality clash in a physical encounter. Shibata wasn’t one-hundred percent as mentioned by commentary and was used to develop the in-ring story as he managed to get the upper hand. Goto was hit with an array of strikes before he hit a belly-to-belly. Shibata eventually worked in his signature no-sells and after a great exchange, struck an STO. The two’s chemistry was a testament to the Division’s tendency to the old strong style. They showed that one surely. Shibata was so intense he even shoved Red Shoes into the ropes. Goto got closer near-falls and the crowd was even leaning on it. That built up the momentum where Goto hit the GTR for the three-count and it truly felt like a weight lifted off his shoulders as he won the big one. Truth be told – don’t go into WK as a Champion.
– The IWGP Intercontinental Championship match between Hiroshi Tanahashi and Champion Naito was a marquee battle of its own, epic hairstyles included. Tanahashi even had a new entrance, with “Go Ace!” splattered all over the screens, a personification that he represented the “New Era.” On the other hand, Naito’s entrance downright gave us goosebumps, from his catchy techno LIJ theme and skull mask. This guy’s a walking LIJ billboard and we love it. A justifiably slow start as the two felt each other out. Naito dropkicked Tanahashi as he tried to jump to the top rope. It also helped that there was some legit backstory here, as it was discussed that Naito was once denied a main event match with Tanahashi before. Smart of commentary to also use all the Title changes as a way to hype this one up, especially with the upstart babyface as the challenger. After some spots that involved the air, Naito had Tanahashi in a submission as it was questioned if Tanahashi would tap out to begin the “New Era.” Tanahashi landed a high cross body, but missed the High Fly Flow. Naito executed Destino for a two-count and tried another, but Tanahashi countered it as the crowd got loud. They exchanged forearms before Tanahashi hit HFF and landed on Naito’s knees on a second try. In a clutch moment, Tanahashi kicked out of Super Destino. It ended there as Naito got the win after another maneuver. Nice way to “break the streak” of the show as Naito retained. Also liked the aura of uncertainty it laid upon Tanahashi that he failed his first mission upon his “New Era.”
– The IWGP Heavyweight Championship main event between Champion Kazuchika Okada and “The Cleaner” Kenny Omega was already epic before a single blow was thrown in the infamous “Six Star Match.” Billed as a “Battle For The Future,” there was a sleek hype video (mostly in Japanese, but offered English subtitles) where we saw both men’s eagerness to make NJPW global, but through differing means. Omega showed mighty confidence in that he sought change through action (BC also helps this), while Okada was the traditionalist who wanted to do things the “right way.” It was time to get ready for the match that would set the internet ablaze four days into the new year. Awesome opening video for Omega as he received a Terminator-styled entrance video where he outsmarted a snooty trio of males and spoke Japanese to steal their clothes. He donned a half-Terminator mask and a prop shotgun on his way to the ring. To add to the visual elements, he even crumbled up an Okada buck. The hype was sharpened as commentary mentioned that Okada has never lost a second Title defense. To begin, Okada refrained from an attack only to get spit in the face. They got down and dirty outside the ring, as Okada threw Omega into the barricade and hit a DDT with his feet hanging off the top. Okada hit a running crossbody over the barricade. Omega hit a perfect double foot stomp to the back of Okada’s head. After a fierce exchange, Omega hit a springboard moonsault off the top rope and over the guardrail. To add to it, he placed a table on top of a recovering Okada and performed a double stomp on his abdomen. Omega worked over the kidneys/lower back, but was undone with the first “crazy” spot. Okada hit a back toss that sent Omega halfway across the ring, over the ropes and through a ringside table. Not wanting to retain by countout, the Champ actually broke the count to bring Omega back inside the ring. Okada hit a picture-perfect missile dropkick as Omega was on his knees. Omega got momentum back as he worked over the neck to set up his One-Winged Angel. Okada hit a Tombstone Pilderiver to counter the OWA for a two-count. A Rainmaker later set the same fate. A literal stalemate, as they each knew what was coming. Okada kicked out of Omega’s own Tombstone Piledriver. At this point, it was reaching classic territory. They exchanged forearms both standing and on their knees. Omega hit two running knees for another near-fall. Another running knee/OWA attempt into a Rainmaker was another two-count. Jesus, what will it take? Crowd was restless as both men were down. Omega was hit with another Rainmaker for another close count. How? Omega hit a stiff knee to Okada’s face and attempted another OWA. Okada hit a jumping Tombstone Piledriver instead and another Rainmaker to finally end it. Just wow. That was insane. Breathtaking. Seriously. You need to see this match. It really was about as perfect as it gets, with a blend of everything possible – near-falls, drama, table spots, psychology and a great story headed in of brand-dependent supremacy.
- Pre-Show – New Japan Pro Rumble – “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin def. Cheeseburger, Billy Gunn, Bone Soldier, Hiro Saito, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Kuniaki Kobayashi, Manabu Nakanishi, Ryusuke Taguchi, Scott Norton, Tiger Mask, Yoshitatsu and Yuji Nagata
- Tiger Mask (w/Suziko Mimori) def. Tiger The Dark via pinfall
- IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship – Roppongi Vice def. The Young Bucks (Champions) via pinfall to become new Champions
- NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championship – Gauntlet Match – Bushi/Evil/Sanada def. Hangman Page/Bad Luck Fale/Yujiro Takahashi, Ricochet/David Finlay/Satoshi Kojima and Will Ospreay/Jado/Yoshi-Hashi (Champions) to become new Champions
- Cody def. Juice Robinson via pinfall
- ROH World Championship – Adam Cole def. Kyle O’Reilly (Champion) via pinfall to regain Title
- IWGP Tag Team Championship – Three-Way – Tomohiro Ishii/Toru Yano def. Guerrillas Of Destiny (Champions) and GBH to become new Champions
- IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship – Hiromu Takahashi def. Kushida (Champion) via pinfall to become new Champion
- NEVER Openweight Championship – Hirooki Goto def. Katsuyori Shibata (Champion) via pinfall to become new Champion
- IWGP Intercontinental Championship – Tetsuya Naito (Champion) def. Hiroshi Tanahashi via pinfall to retain
- IWGP Heavyweight Championship – Kazuchika Okada (w/Gedo) def. Kenny Omega (w/The Young Bucks) to retain
Posted on April 15, 2017, in Misc, ROH and tagged Adam Cole, Bad Luck Fale, Billy Gunn, Bone Soldier, Bullet Club, Bushi, Chaos, Cheeseburger, Cody, David Finlay, Evil, Hangman Page, Hiro Saito, Hiromu Takahashi, Hirooki Goto, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Jado, Juice Robinson, Jushin Thunder Liger, Katsuyori Shibata, Kazuchika Okada, Kenny Omega, Kevin Kelly, Kuniaki Kobayashi, Kushida, Kyle O'Reilly, Los Ingobernables de Japon, Manabu Nakanishi, Michael Elgin, Ricochet, Roppongi Vice, Ryusuke Taguchi, Sanada, Satoshi Kojima, Scott Norton, Steve Corino, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, Tetsuya Naito, The Young Bucks, Tiger Mask, Tiger Mask W, Tiger The Dark, Todd Sinclair, Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, Will Ospreay, Wrestle Kingdom 11, Yoshi Hashi, Yoshitatsu, Yuji Nagata, Yujiro Takahashi. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.