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NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 Night One match recommendations: Like butter

Kazuchika Okada has Kota Ibushi in a bodyscissors at Wrestle Kingdom 14 NJPW World

For full results of night one of Wrestle Kingdom 14, you can click here, but otherwise, let’s get on with the show!

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.

Alex Coughlin, Clark Connors, Karl Fredericks, & Toa Henare vs. Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma), Yota Tsuji, & Yuya Uemura (2): Young Lions controlling the match early, cycling through the matchups, the vets come in more and more, this is a real standard opening tag but like always it’s good clean fun to see the Young Lions as they come along.

Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata vs. TenCozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima) (2): This is all Nagata and Nakanishi early, but soon enough Kojima fires up and Tenzan starts bringing it. Good back and forth dad action as you demand it, they hit all their spots, it’s not essential but gosh dang it if you don’t love little things like Nagata counting along to pinfalls or doing the big “HOOOO!” with Nakanishi I don’t know what to tell you.

Great Sasuke, Jushin Liger, Tatsumi “the Dragon” Fujinami, & Tiger Mask IV vs. Naoki Sano, Ryusuke Taguchi, Shinjiro Ohtani, & Tatsuhito Takaiwa (4): Allow me a tangent, friends-- I think part of why New Japan’s junior heavyweight division sometimes comes off as lacking is a problem of legacy. The heavyweights have the so-called Third Generation all still around and pretty active as a bridge to the past, but of the juniors of the late-90s / early 2000s, it’s basically just Liger and Tiger Dad. Which is all an elaborate way of saying I love having Sasuke, Ohtani, and Takaiwa on hand here and this is just a really fun match that’s worth giving a look.

Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, SANADA, & Shingo Takagi) vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, & Zack Sabre, Jr.) (1): Your standard LIJ/SZKG chaos early on, Sabre going to town on SANADA’s arm while Suzuki dissects EVIL and so on. Shingo goes absolutely wild, Taichi tears him down, we get a good long SANADA/ZSJ segment in the ring, and this is a perfectly good high-energy set-up tag match even if it’s not really Wrestle Kingdom material. Pass, but not because it’s bad or anything.

Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, KENTA, & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Chaos (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, & YOSHI-HASHI) (1): Yano demands to start and immediately regrets it when he turns to see Fale staring him down. A brave attempt is made, Tacos comes in and gets overwhelmed, Bullet Club work him over at length until Ishii comes in and clears house! Fale runs him off, the match breaks down and then Goto and KENTA go at it in a preview of tomorrow’s match and again, this is a perfectly cromulent undercard tag that has no place at Wrestle Kingdom.

Like, I kinda hate to say it, but the best part of this was Ishii struggling to brainbuster Fale and I can’t help but think this would have been better off as a singles between those two.

FinJuice (David Finlay & Juice Robinson) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (c) (IWGP Tag Team Championship) (3): GoD powerbomb Robinson on the ramp in a pre-match brawl and that sets the tone for the match, with Juice sidelined and Finlay with a target painted on his surgically repaired shoulder. They fight valiantly, GoD pull out all the stops, interference, etc, but FinJuice refuse to stay down and we head for our finish. This is a good solid tag match, not a particular standout, but not bad either.

Jon Moxley vs. Lance Archer (c) (IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship Texas Death Match) (5): Both men coming into this one ready for violence, and violence they do create! Trash can lids, kendo sticks, chairs, Young Lions, plastic bags(!), you name it, it gets used as a weapon here. Hard-hitting, hard grappling (there’s some shockingly cool submission work here), a killer finish... it’s good friendly violent fun overall. Check it out!

Hiromu Takahashi vs. Will Ospreay (c) (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship) (5): I mean, there’s an apron powerbomb within the first five minutes of the match so you know these lads aren’t fooling around. Turn it up from there, ludicrous speed, this match is everything you hoped it would be, watch it now! But it’s not just junk food high spots (although those are great, just watch this exchange from about ten minutes in), it’s also got frankly kind of a brilliant structure built around Ospreay’s wicked back elbow, escalation for days... this is super great, folks.

”Switchblade” Jay White (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito (IWGP Intercontinental Championship) (3): Mind games early, Naito going right after Gedo and White defending his mentor, and that strategy pays dividends for the Stardust Genius. But of course, Switchblade cuts corners until he pulls back into the lead. The story shifts to one of White targeting Naito’s leg, standard New Japan main event escalations from there, and this is a damn good match but just a little lifeless for a Wrestle Kingdom co-main event.

Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Kota Ibushi (IWGP Heavyweight Championship) (5): Ah, the main event of Wrestle Kingdom. As always, I like to be real here-- this is the main event to (night one of) the biggest show of New Japan’s calendar year. Even if this match sucked, which it doesn’t, it’s worth seeing for yourself. Granted, that energy is sapped a little by the fact that tomorrow’s Double Gold Dash main event is clearly the bigger of the two, but even so-- this match is important regardless of how good it is or isn’t.

That being said, this has a pretty classical NJ main event structure but really comes alive when Ibushi snaps about twenty minutes into the match and just starts wailing on the Rainmaker. I could quibble and wish it got to that point faster, but it’s really damn good all the same and absolutely worth your time even if it weren’t one of the biggest matches of the year.

There you have it, folks

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to toss in your two cents below, Cagesiders.

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