As part of my efforts to blog more frequently and spread my wings a bit, I’ve decided I’m going to throw some thoughts up about the wrestling shows I watch. There are a few reasons for this.

1) I never remember all the shows I’ve watched during the year by the end of the year, when everyone is compiling their ‘Show of the year/Match of the year list.’ So I figured this might be a good way of remembering what I’ve seen and allow me to form an opinion.

2) It might be a good way to discuss these shows with others. No one in my every day life watches wrestling so I don’t really have an outlet to discuss wrestling.

3) Wrestling is another area of my life that I need to complete ‘redress’ on. I’ve been a fan of wrestling, on/off, since 1992. As much as I love watching wrestling, I’ve missed so much, due to not having access to SKY (as a kid) to being tired and falling asleep during shows (now). So, my goal is to stay on top of watching wrestling and this blog has taught me that, if I write things down, I will (generally) stick with them.

Don’t worry, I’m not abandoning blogging about games – I just want to write about something I’m equally passionate about. If you’re not a fan of wrestling, I won’t be offended if you skip over these blog posts – I know wrestling is an acquired taste!

Wrestle Kingdom 12

Wrestle Kingdom is the first New Japan Pro Wrestling show of the year and it’s often a contender for best show of the year. For those unfamiliar with New Japan, Wrestle Kingdom is basically New Japan’s Wrestlemania, their big ‘end of year’ show.

Therefore, the Wrestle Kingdom show is usually stacked with great matches and this year was no different. The hype was mainly for Kenny Omega vs Chris Jericho, but there were several potential great matches on the card. It was therefore an easy decision for me to dedicate a crazy six and a half hours (spread over two days) to watching Wrestle Kingdom 12. For the record, one of the main reasons I sometimes vanish from Twitter and WordPress is to avoid pro wrestling results…hence my own self imposed internet exile for two days. I miss the good old days when I could watch a wrestling show, be home for 4am, grab a few hours sleep then head off to University. Time eh?

I’ve devised a simple rating system just to grade matches and shows – nothing too serious, just a bit of fun so I can see what my favourite matches and shows are at the end of the year. Basically, I grade the matches on a scale of 0-5, then divide the total score by the number of matches in order to give the show an overall grade. Again, it’s nothing too serious – I’m not a wrestling expert by any stretch.

Let’s give this system a try…

I thought the New Japan Rumble (2/5) was OK. To explain, the New Japan Rumble is similar to the WWE’s Royal Rumble, except it’s a bit more haphazard. The participants are separated by one minute intervals and it’s not really an important match. It’s contested by the members of the NJPW roster not in other matches and a few surprise entrants. I thought the field of participants was decent though and there were some nice moments in it.

The Young Bucks’ victory over Roppongi 3K for the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag Titles (3.5/5) told a good story. It wasn’t on the level of the Young Bucks’ NJPW matches with reDRagon or Roppongi Vice, but I really enjoyed the emphasis on the back injuries and the repeated Sharpshooters from the Bucks.

The Never Openweight 6-Man Title match (2/5) didn’t really grab me. Nothing wrong with any of the performances, there was just too many wrestlers involved (18 including interfering wrestlers) in too little time (17 minutes) for anything to really register with me. This match and the New Japan Rumble seem to mainly exist to get wrestlers on to the big show of the year, which is cool but it leaves the wrestlers little time to make an impression. Still, I’m always happy to see most of these wrestlers (Ishii, Beretta, Taguchi playing ‘head coach’) so I had no problem trying to make sense of the chaos.

Kota Ibushi vs Cody Rhodes (3.5/5) is where Wrestle Kingdom started to step up. Ibushi is fantastic – ridiculously agile, vicious kicks and an endearing physical charisma – and I always look forward to his matches. The Cross Rhodes off the apron was the icing on the cake and I thought it really added to the match. Ibushi’s win will lead to more drama with Kenny Omega and Cody down the line, which I’m looking forward to….

Los Ingobernables de Japon’s IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Title win over Killer Elite Squad (3.5/5) entertained me more than I thought it would. I wasn’t expecting much, but I had a lot of fun watching Lance Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr destroy their opponents and various ‘young boys’ (Dojo trainees) at ringside. Evil and Sanada’s fight back to win was good too. I’ve previously skipped over the Heavyweight Tag Team Title matches to save time when watching New Japan shows, but I’ll be giving them more of a chance from now on, based on this match.

By contrast, I struggled a bit with Minoru Suzuki vs Hirooki Goto’s Hair vs Hair match for the Never Openweight Title (3/5). It felt too similar to the previous match (Suzuki-gun wrestler/s take advantage via nefarious means, long heat section, big comeback) and I kinda lose concentration during Goto’s matches…I like his effort, but he just doesn’t hold my attention for some reason. The post match angle was great though – Suzuki returning to the ring to shave his own head after Suzuki-gun tried to help him escape was superb. A bad guy with some personal integrity is always cool.

The four way match for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title (4/5) between Marty Scurll, Will Ospreay, Kushida and Hiromu Takahashi was the second best of the night in my opinion. I really like all four wrestlers and this match has got me looking forward to the annual Best of the Super Juniors tournament…I just wish this match had been an elimination match instead of a four way. A minor quibble though – the match contained fast paced action, complete with mad high flying, loads of awesome signature moves and a man using an umbrella as a weapon.

Hiroshi Tanahashi’s win over ‘Switchblade’ Jay White (3/5) was fine, but I was left wanting more. There was nothing wrong with the match at all, I was just waiting for a shock or an memorable moment that never came.

I thought Kenny Omega vs Chris Jericho (5/5) over-delivered. I was excited for this match going into the card because of the build up, it was definitely the match I looking forward to the most. However, I had my doubts the match could live up to the hype. From the entrances onwards though, I was glued to the iPad. This match had everything…wild brawling, blood, some crazy high flying, non-wrestlers getting in the way of the chaos, the crowd’s reaction…An early Match Of The Yeat contender for me.

Kazuchika Okada vs Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Heavyweight Title (4/5) was a strange one for me. It felt really long, even by New Japan standards and I found my attention drifting. As much as I like Naito’s character, I find that his matches lose my attention once they slow down. Still, once the action picked up, the match was fantastic and I think the finish shocked a lot of people assuming Naito would win. A good main event, but not up to the standard of the matches Okada had last year with Omega and Katsuyori Shibata.

So…adding up the scores and doing the maths….Wrestle Kingdom 12 scored 3.35. It doesn’t sound much, but I doubt too many shows will be getting higher than that!

New Year's Dash

I watched some of New Year’s Dash (the traditional ‘post Wrestle Kingdom’ show), but decided to skip through the matches when I realised they were all multi man tag matches. I watched the angles between the matches though.

+ The Kenny Omega/Jay White interaction, with White rejecting Omega’s offer to join the Bullet Club, was great. I was really excited to see where it would lead…until White joined Chaos, the faction Okada leads. I find them to be a bloated, stale group to be honest. Given how lost in the shuffle Hirooki Goto has been since joining them, I’m not optimistic for Jay White. I’ll see how it pans out though – I’ve been wrong before!

+ Naito and Jericho’s end of show brawl was awesome. Jericho has been a breath of fresh air in New Japan and I’ve enjoyed seeing him try and fight everyone he comes across, from wrestlers to young boys to commentators. I’m totally on board with a Naito vs Jericho match.

There you have it – a good start to 2018 for pro wrestling. January is my favourite month for wrestling (Wrestle Kingdom, Royal Rumble and an NXT Takeover = thumbs up) so I’m hoping the standard stays this high!