I'm gonna do my usual spiel about these match recommendations below, but let's be frank here, folks— it's Wrestle Kingdom. It's New Japan's biggest show of the year. If you care even a little about New Japan Pro Wrestling in the year of our lord 2017, you're probably gonna want to watch the whole thing. Even the stuff that isn't worth your time is gonna give you an idea of where Gedo might be taking us this year.
That being said, as always, I've got a very simple five point scale laid out where a 1 is total skip, 2 you can probably skip unless you love one of the folks in it, 3 is a match that's worth watching but not necessarily worth making time for, a 4 is a solid recommendation to make time for if you can, and a 5 is a must-watch.
Mind you, these are not star ratings. They're not meant to be absolute ratings in any sense, but rather a simple (and hopefully sensible) way to determine if a match is worth your time. A one is not necessarily a bad match, but rather just one I feel like you're best off skipping. I have my biases, of course, but hopefully I can make it easy for you to adjust for them.
New Japan Rumble (Michael Elgin, Billy Gunn, Bone Soldier, Cheeseburger, Jushin Liger, Kuniaki Kobayashi, Tiger Mask IV, Manabu Nakanishi, Ryusuke Taguchi, YOSHITATSU, Yuji Nagata, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Hiro Saito, and Scott Norton) (3)
BIG MIKE IS BACK! And starting off against Billy Gunn, because 2017 is eager to start living up to 2016's shadow, in the aspect of wacky pro wrestling moments, at least.
But yeah, the is the New Japan Rumble and odds are just looking at the list of participants you know whether or not you want to watch it. It is essentially the purest form of the Royal Rumble match format, reduced to its most exciting elements, surprise returns, old guys showing up for a last hurrah, random midcard guys getting murked, it's great.
Michael Elgin wins by pinfall, last eliminating Cheeseburger with a Revolution Elgin Bomb.
Tiger Mask W vs. Tiger the Dark (3)
Again, kind of a match where you know right off where you stand— it's Kota Ibushi and ACH playing anime characters for cryin' out loud.
Anyway, the match itself is about what you'd expect, with maybe a bit more traditional wrestling in the ratio due to these two playing these characters instead of just being themselves. And it's a bit short, so they never really had a chance to kick it into second gear.
Tiger Mask W wins by pinfall with a Golden Star Tiger Driver.
Roppongi Vice (Beretta & Rocky Romero) vs. Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) (c) (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship) (1)
So, y'know, you see one junior tag these days and you've seen 'em all. Countout nearfall, endless suck its, superkicks aplenty. It's not bad, exactly (I really dug once sequence ending in an Argentine backbreaker / diving knee drop combo, for one, and Rocky's valiant handicap run after Beretta missed a tope con giro and ate cold floor was good fun), it's just... stale.
Roppongi Vice win by pinfall with a crucifix pin from Rocky Romero to become the new IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions.
And that means you can give it a skip, unless you're really into junior tags or Gedo’s “your turn, my turn” booking of the undercard titles..
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Hangman Page, & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Chaos (Jado, Will Ospreay, & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. David Finlay, Ricochet, & Satoshi Kojima (c) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, & SANADA) (NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship Gauntlet Match) (2)
Bullet Club and Chaos to start, naturally, with BC taking it to the Chaos boys hard. Ospreay makes a comeback for them with the Space Flying Tiger Drop and other flippy hits but in the end they fall and are replaced by Los Ingobernables de Japon. Eventually there's a ref bump and LIJ take full advantage to eliminate Bullet Club. The champions come in hot and flipping, Ricochet in full effect only to eventually get separated and taken apart.
Los Ingobernables de Japon win by pinfall, last eliminating David Finlay, Ricochet, & Satoshi Kojima with EVIL from EVIL on Satoshi Kojima.
So the first two sub-matches here were rather disappointing, but once it came down to the champions vs. LIJ we had some real fun on our hands. I still can't help but lament the utter lack of Ospreay/Ricochet action in this one, and overall I gotta go a little low here on the must-watch scale.
Cody Rhodes vs. Juice Robinson (2)
Aggressive start, heading outside and seeing Cody dive into a belly-to-belly suplex and eat a cannonball, but Juice's knee eats the barricade and Rhodes soon smells blood in the water and exploits it. Juice manages to shake it off and get a comeback in but a chop block ends his hopes of taking out the American Nightmare. It takes a bit longer than you might expect, but it ends up right where you knew it was going to end.
Cody Rhodes wins by pinfall with Cross Rhodes.
Pretty lifeless, really. There was a skeleton of a good match in here but it couldn't decide whether it wanted to be "dominant Cody beats the living crap out of poor Juice" or "Juice fights through pain to make repeated comebacks but can't overcome a bum wheel" and suffered for it.
Adam Cole vs. Kyle O'Reilly (c) (ROH World Championship) (3)
Slugging it right out, and Kyle looks to finish early with an armbar but Cole stays ahead of him and brings a chair into the proceedings over the objections of referee Todd Sinclair and takes O'Reilly's arm out from under him. No skin off Kyle's teeth, though, as he brings it to Adam practically one-armed, throwing strings of forearms and chaining what offense he can together to bridge the gap. He goes back to the arm but Cole is able to use the arm damage he inflicted to keep Kyle from sealing the deal.
A pair of Last Shots fail to put O'Reilly away and Adam starts throwing superkicks like the Young Bucks were giving away their leftovers backstage and it's nigh-inevitable...
Adam Cole wins by pinfall with Last Shot, becoming the NEW ROH World Champion.
A bit on the short side but worth the time to check it out, I reckon.
Chaos (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) vs. Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa) (c) (IWGP Tag Team Championship) (4)
Everybody beats down my poor Toru Yano to start, it's very sad. But he's able to pull ahead on GBH by sending Honma into the accidentally exposed turnbuckles in and he and Ishii work over the master of the Kokeshi a while. Things shift to GoD vs. GBH and Makabe runs wild on everybody. Honma gets in there with Tanga Roa, who ends up swearing so much that Steve Corino laughs himself silly. Ishii's turn to clear house but Tonga cuts him off early so Yano takes charge but GoD take care of the Chaos men.
GBH back on the offensive, double-teaming the erstwhile Camacho and looking to finish him off with a powerbomb / Kokeshi combo but Ishii breaks it up! Honma blocks the Gun Stun on a first try but hits the torpedo Kokeshi right into a second! Makabe blocks Gun Stun but gets caught by Guerrilla Warfare. Honma fights out of his own and Yano gets a blind tag on him. The Chaos boys run the gauntlet...
Chaos wins by pinfall with a double low blow into a school boy from Toru Yano, becoming the NEW IWGP Tag Team Champions.
Come for Tanga Roa's hilarious cursing, stay for the match getting really hot towards the end. Good times.
Hiromu Takahashi vs. KUSHIDA (c) (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship) (5)
Takahashi attacks KUSHIDA before the bell even rings and we have our tone set. A few crazy dives later and the champion is going after the challenger's arm. A sunset flip powerbomb to the outside sees referee Marty Asami checking on KUSHIDA and consulting with the ringside doctor before allowing the match to continue. The erstwhile Kamaitachi continues to take the champ apart but KUSHIDA has gas in the tank and gets separation with a reverse STO into the turnbuckles. Hiromu takes it to him, dumping him on his head again with a German suplex and clobbering him outside with a diving senton off the top. Back in the ring, a Meteora gets the challenger two, he looks for another powerbomb off the apron but KUSHIDA moonsaults to his feet before catching Takahashi into an armbar off a dive from the apron! In the ring again, KUSHIDA throws hard kicks to drive the wind out of Hiromu and continue to soften his arm up. Hoverboard Lock applied, Takahashi gets to his knees and fights to the ropes only to get rolled back across the ring! Tight sequence follows, KUSHIDA looking for the submission again but Hiromu denies him as best he can. Spent now, throwing bombs at each other, including a sick avalanche victory roll, on our way to...
Hiromu Takahashi wins by pinfall with a spinning Emerald Flowsion, becoming the NEW IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion.
Awesome violent, visceral pyrotechnic match. Definitely watch this one, folks.
Hirooki Goto vs. Katsuyori Shibata (c) (NEVER Openweight Championship) (5)
Shibata dominating his high school chum early on, kicking him to the outside like so much garbage before going to work on his arm, stomping and locking him up. Goto comes back with forearms and the violence intensifies, kick for brutal kick, until the champion backs challenger up in the corner and pummels him, capping it off with one of his trademark hesitation dropkicks.
Goto fires up off a back suplex and they go forehead to forehead, charging bull moose at one another then trading suplexes before Hirooki drops Katsuyori neck-first onto his knee. Shouten blocked, leg-trap German suplex, Goto runs right into an STO and both men are down. Back up and they wail on each other with forearms until Shibata starts leaning on the sleeper hold he loves so much.
Goto fights for the ropes but Shibata falls back and applies the bodyscissors. Goto is dead weight on the mat and Shibata tries to pick him up but Red Shoes Unno warns him off so he pops him one and stays on Goto, dragging him up and trading headbutts. The Chaos man gets an Ushigoroshi off, looking for Shouten... Shibata kicks out! Goto praying for the buzzsaw kick but it just fires Shibata up and they trade wild flurries of forearms and headbutts!
GTR connects, he hoists him up for another...
Hirooki Goto wins by pinfall with GTR, becoming the NEW NEVER Openweight Champion.
Well, I'm cross about the result— Goto will likely hold the title until New Beginning only to drop it right back, because that's how Gedo rolls, but the match itself was great and the second-straight must-watch here.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito (c) (IWGP Intercontinental Championship) (5)
Naito stalls in the early goings, because that's what he does. Tanahashi with a stiff shot to the ribs on a break once they lock up but the champion sends the 1/100 Dude outside and has a lie-down in the ring. Hiroshi with an advantage, throwing probing combinations of maneuvers until Naito catches him with a dropkick to the back of the knee and grounds him, continuing to work on the knee something fierce.
They slug it out but Naito soon tires of being hit and goes right back to the knee but Tanahashi fights to stay in it, throwing forearms like he got a two-for-one coupon at the Forearm Barn. Hiroshi targets Tetsuya's ribs and the tenor of the match evens out a little as he goes to work with the dragon screw after, an eye for an eye. Sling blade on the apron and the High Fly Flow to the outside crushes Naito's head against the floor!
Both men's legs bugging them now as they fight across the ring, Naito at one point stumbling into the ropes while Tanahashi was up top in order to crotch him, deliberately or not. Avalanche Frankensteiner into a bridging German suplex gets the LIJ man a nearfall and the 1/100 Dude eats Gloria soon after for another.
Trading dropkicks to the knee, Naito with a roll-through into a short legscissor and Tanahashi tries to use the leg damage he inflicted to get out but has to finesse it, rolling around until he can reverse to a cloverleaf. It's on at a really high angle here but Naito manages to get the ropes in the end. Dragon screw, sling blades, not good for a pin but good to set up a High Fly Flow crossbody as Naito wakes. Back up top but the pool is empty!
Destino connects, Naito holds on, looks for a second but Tanahashi counters into a dragon screw neck whip! Slowly back to their feet for forearms and soon they're stomping at each other's bad knees and Naito punctuates the exchange with a cracking low dropkick. Bridging Dragon suplex, back up top, High Fly Flow, up again... KNEES UP!
Boot up, the former ace catches it but Naito cracks him with an enzuigiri and hits a tornado inverted DDT for a nearfall, he hooks the arm...
Tetsuya Naito wins by pinfall with Destino, retaining the IWGP Intercontinental Championship.
Excellent match. The knee work never got left behind for long, absolutely make time for this one, folks, you will not regret it.
Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Kenny Omega (IWGP Heayweight Championship) (5)
A bit of light mat grappling early before Omega starts punishing the champion with strikes. Soon he returns in kind and Kenny locks a side headlock in and won't let it go for anything, even grabbing Okada's hair when he tries to shoot him off. Continuing exchanges, ducking and dodging and catching each other but not gaining much of an advantage even through early finisher attempts and Kenny chooses to spit on Okada before taking a breather.
Back in the and Okada plants Omega with a big boot to take charge and takes his challenger outside to throw him into the barricade and spike him into the floor with a DDT. The heavyweight champion gets a table out but Red Shoes admonishes him before he can set it up, leading to Omega blindsiding him only to eat a wicked running crossbody over the barricade moments later! Back in the ring Okada grinds his challenger down until Kenny gets back into it with a low dropkick and a pop-up Fameasser.
More dodging and ducking, punctuated on both sides by hard forearms to the kidneys from Omega. Looking for Aoi Shoudou, Okada blocks, Omega fires a headscissors takeover off that sends the champion outside in preparation for the Terminator tope con giro. A hard slam kidney first onto the apron follows and Omega nails Okada hard in the back of the head with a missile dropkick.
The champion is reeling but he manages to drop Kenny with Heavy Rain and keeps running the offense up on him, looking for the Tombstone, Omega blocks so Okada repositions and hits the Reverse Neckbreaker. Diving elbow, Kenny gets the knees up and gets Okada on the far side of the barricade... GOLDEN TRIANGLE MOONSAULT PAST THE BARRICADE!
Red Shoes makes his count but Okada doesn't have to make it all the way in because Omega breaks it, puts the closed table on the champion and hits a running double stomp onto the table! Folding powerbomb... NO GOOD! Gutwrench... DOCTOR BOMB! STILL NOT ENOUGH!
The Young Bucks set up the table outside and beckon Omega over but Kenny fails to get the champion out there and punishes him in the ring some more first. Rainmaker reversed into a Finlay Roll chained into a moonsault for a tight nearfall! Okada sets him up top and knocks him down with a dropkick, clean past the outside mats and onto the concrete under the barricade! Hoists him up on the apron, Omega slips out, looking for One-Winged Angel, Okada gets him back in and they end up trading chops... BACK BODY DROP OVER THE ROPES AND THROUGH THE TABLE!
Okada breaks the count and rolls Kenny into the ring, heading up top himself for a missile dropkick that wipes Kenny out hard. Looking for the Rainmaker, Omega gets the ropes, a second try reversed with a shove in the corner, big slap, sets the champ up top, looking for a back superplex but Okada fights out with elbows. Omega back up... AVALANCHE DRAGON SUPLEX! Cover... NOT ENOUGH!
Looking for V-Trigger when the champion hits a German suplex and grabs the wrist but the Rainmaker is ducked and V-Trigger connects! Off the ropes again and right into a picture perfect dropkick, wrist clutch, Omega kicks the lariat arm, V-Trigger hits again, POISON FRANKENSTEINER! Another V-Trigger, electric chair, Okada lands on his feet! Tombstone piledriver! Wristlock applied, Rainmaker connects... KENNY OMEGA KICKS OUT!
Okada tries to pick Kenny up but he's dead weight, slugging desperately at the champion, clawing at his face. Okada with a shotgun dropkick! Up for the Tombstone again, Omega reverses... WHEELBARROW DRIVER! OKADA KICKS OUT! They're slugging it out forearm for forearm, woozy on their feet, before Omega snaps off a Dragon suplex and a V-Trigger for another nearfall.
One more V-Trigger, he hoists Okada up in the chair but Okada fights out with a wristlock and hits the Rainmaker! But he can't make the pin! He still has the wrist and Omega's kneeing the living crap out of his head to force him to break it but Okada WILL NOT LET GO. Another Rainmaker! One more ducked, Okada slips away, goes for the Tombstone, Omega out, dropkick, Rainmaker V-Trigger!
Up in the electric chair again, Okada slips out again, jumping Tombstone! Wrist clutch...
Kazuchika Okada wins by pinfall with a Rainmaker, retaining the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
So, yeah. That wasn't perfect by any means, it started slow, meandered a long while in the middle, and might have gone to the well one too many times right at the end, but goddamn if the last third wasn't mostly incredible. Watch it, just maybe fast-forward the first twenty minutes and stop when you feel satisfied you've seen enough Rainmakers.
Again, it feels kind of silly giving recommendations on a show like this, but I have a format and I'm sticking to it. Anyway, the undercard was a bit of a mess, but the last four matches delivered as hard as you’d hope. Watch those matches if nothing else and get your 999 yen worth, folks.