For full results of tonight’s show, you can click right here, but otherwise, 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.
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Chaos (Robbie Eagles, Tomohiro Ishii, & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, & Shingo Takagi) vs. Most Violent Players (Togi Makabe & Toru Yano) & Ryusuke Taguchi (c) vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Taichi, & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship Gauntlet Match) (1): The NEVER gauntlet is the NEVER gauntlet. It ain’t bad, but it ain’t as compelling as the good old New Japan Rumble, and it’s almost definitionally skippable.
Hiromu Takahashi & Ryu “Dragon” Lee vs. Jushin Liger & Naoki Sano (Jushin Liger Retirement Match) (5): Jushin Liger is 55 years old, Hiromu and Lee are both absolutely top talents of their generation, and STILL somehow Liger is the best guy in the match. For a man to have given so much to us for so long and to go out still having so much in the tank is incredible. The young dudes bring the fire, Liger brings the greatness, Sano still has enough in the tank to be worthwhile, this isn’t moment-for-moment the greatest match this weekend, but it’s damn good and it’s worth your time to see one of the greatest of all time on his way out.
Bullet Club (El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori) (c) vs. Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship) (3): RPG3K in control early on as they go hard out the gates, but inevitably the Bullet Club boys turn the tide. SHO gets a hot run in there but this is just a smidge too by-the-numbers back-and-forth junior heavyweight tag action for my tastes. Not bad, and there’s a low blow spot I popped huge for, but not worth going out of your way for.
SANADA vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (c) (RPW British Heavyweight Championship) (4): This is a tight and well-executed technical wrestling match pitting Sabre’s smooth as silk catch wrestling against SANADA’s more llave style. It’s not quite as strong as it could be, seeing as these lads have wrestled each other a bunch over the past year and change and it all felt kind of predictable as a result, but it’s a good match all the same and worth a rec.
Jon Moxley (c) vs. Juice Robinson (IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship) (4): Robinson with a strong start, jumping Moxley before the bell! That sets a tone for the match, which, as I’m sure will surprise everyone, is a hard-hitting brawl that’s a lot of fun. Not quite on the level of night one’s match against Archer, but good, good stuff all the same.
Hirooki Goto vs. KENTA (c) (NEVER Openweight Championship) (2): Angry Goto in full effect, this is a brawl from the jump but it feels lacking somehow. Maybe it’s just that it was positioned immediately after a) a match that was very similarly paced in a similar style and b) a tease for Mox/Suzuki that took my breath away, but it’s just missing that spark to make it deserving of a solid recommendation. Not bad, exactly-- if you like either of these dudes, you will like this match-- but not great, and Wrestle Kingdom needs you to be great to stand out.
”Switchblade” Jay White vs. Kota Ibushi (3): My biggest criticism of this match, frankly, is that it feels completely unnecessary. Jamming the two losers from the night one title matches together for a de facto runner’s up match, just... I fail to see the purpose. That said, it’s a solid match, and the return of dead-eyed, dead inside “pound you into a fine paste with elbow strikes” Ibushi is welcome. Indeed, I think it heats up really well by the ref bump, it’s just hard to get past the “why is this happening?” of it all. A strong 3, but just not enough to jump into the “I think you should definitely watch this” end of the scale.
Chris Jericho vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (4): Down and dirty dad brawling at its finest! You got cocky Tanahashi stealing Jericho’s taunts, you got Jericho putting him through tables, stealing his taunts back, ref bumps, low blows... is it a truly great match? Not really. Is it a fun change of pace for 4AM on a Sunday morning that has some fire and verve and makes a good accounting of itself? Absolutely.
Kazuchika Okada (IWGP Heavyweight) vs. Tetsuya Naito (IWGP Intercontinental) (IWGP Heavyweight Championship / IWGP Intercontinental Championship Double Gold Dash Match) (5): Once again we come to a Wrestle Kingdom main event, and once again I say to you— you’re going to watch this no matter what I say here.
So, bad thing out of the way first— two nights of Wrestle Kingdom is a lot, and a match this long at the end of two huge nights of wrestling is even more of a lot. Even being invested in Naito’s story, I found myself drifting and losing track of the match for minutes at a time.
That being said, this is a great match built around a story of Naito refusing to let up for a minute even in the face of a knee that Okada is relentless in his targeting of. Watch it!
There you have it, folks
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to toss in your two cents below, Cagesiders.