Thanks to Wrestling Inc. reader Con Bouliopoulos for sending in this report for this morning's NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 11 pay-per-view:
I got there at 5pm and by that time the RAMBO was done. Tiger Mask W Vs. Tiger The Dark was okay. Crowd was flat, I wasn't engaged and a lot of the ring work looked clunky too be honest. That's from my seat. The match didn't flow very well and the result had no suspense. Really it just felt like the match was there to promote the animated series? * 1/2.
The Young Bucks/RPG Vice match was excellent. They managed to engage the Japanese crowd with high suspense countouts, near falls and the surprise finish that worked. ***1/2.
I can't comment on the Gaunlet match because I went to get food. Incredible lines. A note about the dome, there was a glass box along the corridor of the food stalls / merch stands that was for smokers. A really clever idea because in Australia, smokers actually need to go out the stadium and that's tedious for them. There were plaques around the dome that documented musicians that have played there, Prince, Madonna, Sting, George Michael, Paul McCartney, Rolling Stones, Mariah Carey and the two to note, Bon Jovi, who've gone to Japan a bucketload of times and Michael Jackson, who on his three visits played 12 shows each time, which was unmatched by anyone else (I walked around and checked). Even Japanese acts didn't achieve that. I noticed they played MJ at the TGIFs outside afterwards, and many other shops throughout Tokyo, also at Tower Records (yes it's here in Japan) there was practically an aisle just for MJ music. Would explain the Nakamura influence a little?
Cody Vs. Juice was bad. I was very frustrated with Cody. He played the role of the bad guy, yet after his win walked through the crowd, gave the fans the 'too sweet' touch, pandered and it just made no sense. His presence was low, he didn't seem to generate a reaction and didn't do much different in his moveset since his WWE days. Juice worked hard, but the match was flat and honestly... a chore to sit through. *.
The Japanese crowd did not care about the ROH title match. It was a good match, both wrestlers worked so stiff with each other. I really liked it, but the crowd wasn't interested and that took away from it sadly. The crowd didn't understand the 'Bay Bay' shtick and just laughed 'at it'. **1/2.
As I'm writing this, I felt a tremor that lasted for 30-40 seconds in Shibuya. I might need to change my dacks after this. Scared. My partner looked around and saw cups moving side to side just an inch!
Tag team title match was serviceable. I enjoyed it, crowd was into it and everyone was happy with the result. So far a pretty underwhelming show as a whole and difficult to sit through. **3/4.
Takahashi Vs. KUSHIDA blew everything out of the water at this point. I loved the psychology of this match. Everyone was into it, I was into it. Takahashi came out to giant balloons. Now, it was fun as hell to bounce that balloon forward. We sa t next to a lovely Japanese family, two beautiful children (boy and girl) and mum and dad. Dad told me he just finished work and was in a suit, mum dressed beautifully with a white dress, blazer and scarf all matching and the kids were in the merch (about 5-6). The crowd dress differently, act differently, very silent throughout with reactions to moves and behaviour, no reactions to wrestlers, but their favourites got them more excited as the show went on from here. The match itself was excellent, especially one spot where KUSHIDA locked in an armbar from a ridiculous position. Excellent match and a star is born in Takahashi. ****1/2.
Goto Vs. Shibata was excellent. Both men no sold each other so often but the genius was that every move was laid in stiff as stiff can be. So even though both men didn't budge, the crowd was reacting because these moves looked so good, so when I think about it more and more, they actually did sell, by clenching their teeth, egging each other on, everyone understood these men were blocking the pain. ****.
Naito Vs. Tanahashi is basically Bret Hart Vs. Stone Cold 1996/1997 in Japanese. The crowd loves Tanahashi and people were crying when he lost, however there's a good portion of the crowd who were into Naito and were sick of Tanahashi. Naito throwing the belt got a giant reaction. His moveset, rebellious behaviour and dress easily made him the most captivating performer of the night and my prediction for WK12 right now is Naito Vs. Okada. Naito is the man and Tanahashi did an amazing job putting him over. What I loved was that it was a clean victory for Naito. Naito spitting on Tanahashi was intriguing because with American audiences, the spit can mean so little now, it's been done so long ago. The Japanese crowd was completely shocked at that behaviour. Tanahashi played his role so well, he was frustrated and even did some heelish things, very unlike him. Interesting to see what's next for him. The crowd loved this match so much and so did I. *****.
Okada and Omega was excellent. A fantastic main event that was very suspenseful and full of twists and turns. We didn't know who would win. But can I make this clear, walking out the Dome, Naito and Tanahashi was what everyone spoke about. That was the main event. The wrong match ended the show. Surprised it went 48 minutes, but they didn't trade finishers for 20 minutes so that's a huge bonus. Well done to Omega too, who is genuinely a main eventer now. ****1/2.
Overall I loved this show. I'm very fortunate to make it here and will definitely do one again. Check out the final four matches, you could honestly skip the rest of the show. 8.5/10.
BEST REACTIONS - Tanahashi, Okada, Naito, KUSHIDA, Goto, Shibata.
BIGGEST HEAT - Naito, Omega, Takahashi