by James Toal
It’s almost an insult to call Wrestle Kingdom a ‘Japanese WrestleMania’. It’s an event so massive that it could even become a rival to WWE’s current product. But that’s the last you’ll hear about THAT company, we’re here to recap and discuss what went down in Wrestle Kingdom 12. How did it all go? Let’s take a look.
Pre Show: New Japan Rumble (Wrestle Kingdom annual Battle Royal)
This was a decent start to Wrestle Kingdom 12, plenty of surprises thrown in to keep you entertained but not too much to overshadow anything later on the show. Possible unmaskings were teased with the likes of Tiger Mask, Thunder Liger, and Desperado. But luckily, they were able to keep their identities hidden, although Desperado did have his ripped off as he got eliminated. Since it wasn’t focussed on, we can assume that this was a freak accident.
The rumble came to an end once Cheeseburger was eliminated by Masahito Kakihara to become the winner. Congratulations to him and let’s roll on with the first big match of the show.
WINNER: MASAHITO KAKIHARA
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match: Roppongi 3K (Sho and Yoh) (c) vs. The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson)
We kicked off excellently with some entertaining co-ordinated spots from both Roppongi 3k and Young Bucks as they interlinked and created a fun sequence for the opening of Wrestle Kingdom. For added measure, shutting up Rocky Romero with a running powerbomb to the ramp was just the icing on the cake. The Young Bucks took control, slowly putting pressure on Sho and Yoh. Their overconfidence soon changed the tide for Roppongi, however, after a misstep by Matt and Nick Jackson, leaving The Young Bucks open for assault and bringing Roppongi the momentum they desperately needed.
Back-and-forth action took place as superkicks, german suplexes, and clothesline came fast and hard. But, Sho and Yoh did not quit, even after a devastating Swan dive/DDT combo from The Young Bucks. A single leg crab on both the Jacksons couldn’t keep them down, so the strikes kept coming and coming. It was all over once The Bucks hit the Meltzer Driver and topped it off with a sharpshooter to steal the Tag Titles. A solid match for all Bucks fans and a brilliant showing from Roppongi Vice who you can bet will want to reclaim their belts sooner rather than later.
WINNER: THE YOUNG BUCKS
NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship Gauntlet Match: Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa) (c) vs. Chaos (Beretta, Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano) vs. Michael Elgin and War Machine (Hanson and Raymond Rowe) vs. Suzuki-Gun (Taichi, Takashi Iizuka and Zack Sabre Jr.) vs. Taguchi Japan (Juice Robinson, Ryusuke Taguchi and Togi Makabe)
Predictably, Elgin and War Machine dominated in the first stage of the gauntlet match. For as tough as they were, Sabre, Taichi and Iizuka were all put in their place by these huge monsters. While they did seem to gain momentum for a few moments, War Machine crushed and destroyed. Fortunately, lady luck smiled upon Zack Sabre Jr. as he managed to choke out Hanson in a triangle hold and managed to move forward to the next stage.
Next out was Chaos as Beretta, Ishii, and Yano were assaulted before they even got to the ring. By another string of luck, Yano managed to roll up Taichi and moved their team forward to the next stage of the gauntlet. Taguchi Japan came down as Juice Robinson, Ryusuke Taguchi and Togi Makabe. Yano became the punching bag for Taguchi Japan, at least until his teammates came to his aid. Unfortunately, Taguchi getting overconfident and impersonating Shinsuke Nakamura led to him getting rolled up by Yano and causing his team to be eliminated.
Lastly came Bullet Club, represented by Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa. The battle peaked with Ishii facing off against Fale in a scene reminiscent of a giant monster movie. Ishii managed to suplex Fale with superhuman-like strength, but Bullet Club managed to gain momentum and soon took control of the ring. In the end, Beretta secured victory for his team and became the new NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champions.
WINNER: CHAOS (BERETTA, TOMOHIRO ISHII and TORU YANO)
Singles Match: Cody (w/ Brandi Rhodes) vs. Kota Ibushi
Ibushi got the match started by running rings around Cody, which if you’ve learned from watching anything Cody has been involved with is the worst thing you could do. With his ego slightly damaged, Cody sought to achieve momentum by any means. This even meant letting his wife fake an injury in order to keep Ibushi’s guard down. His tactics didn’t get him far, as Ibushi soon bounced back. What brought Cody back from the brink was his Cross Rhodes onto the outside which was probably as painful as it looked.
Cody proceeded to dominate. But, after reversing a second Cross Rhodes, Ibushi was back on top and fought back valiantly. Finally, Ibushi achieved the win with a Phoenix Splash. Even though it’s their first match of 2018, I’ll call it as one of the best matches they’ll have this year. High flying moments accompanied by gritty hard hitting action made this one of the highlights of this Wrestle Kingdom event.
WINNER: KOTA IBUSHI
IWGP Tag Team Championship Match: Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Lance Archer) (c) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Evil and Sanada)
It seemed over from the start as Killer Elite Squad immediately went on the offence and almost finished EVIL, they would have if Sanada hadn’t interfered. Smith and Archer utterly eviscerated their opponents, barely giving them a chance after EVIL had been chokeslammed off the apron onto bystanders. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, EVIL and Sanada regained some ground and brought out their big guns. Sanada brought his A-game, but he wasn’t able to knock Smith down. A Magic Killer wasn’t enough, but thanks to one moonsault, Sanada stole the win and became IWGP Tag Team Champions with EVIL.
It took a while for Los Ingobernables de Japon come back, maybe a little longer than it should’ve, but in the end, it was an entertaining bout that brought our heroes to victory.
WINNER: LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON
NEVER Openweight Championship Loser haircut and no seconds Deathmatch: Minoru Suzuki (c) vs. Hirooki Goto
The feud that made the Hair vs Hair match relevant again finally took place, and intensity filled the room. Goto won after a hard fought battle with his patented GTR, becoming the new Never Openweight Champion. But, leaving Minoru Suzuki with one last task to complete. He defiantly grabbed a chair of his own and went to town removing hair from his head. If you ever wanted to take the Hair stipulation seriously, you couldn’t ask for two amazing performers to achieve that for you. These men took their conflict to breaking point and it excellently collimated in a perfect ending. Goto got his win, leaving his enemy defeated and running with his tail between his legs.
WINNER: HIROOKI GOTO
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Four-Way Match: Marty Scurll (c) vs. Hiromu Takahashi vs. Kushida vs. Will Ospreay
If you counted how many times the phrase ”Oh shit” came out of my mouth throughout this match, you’d be shipping me off to a convent. Every moment had something big to show off, whether it was Ospreay moonsaulting off the supports outside the ring, Kushida Swan Diving from the top turnbuckle, or all four men taking each other out with clotheslines that flip you back onto your front. Every wrestler got a decent spotlight to shine in, the match could’ve easily become weighted towards one competitor, but was presented as anyone’s game. Any one of these men could’ve taken the title, they just had to be quick enough to seize it.
It all came to a head once Will Ospreay gained the advantage, hit the Oz Cutter and pinned the champion Marty Scurll to become the winner. Ospreay became the new IWGP Jr Heavyweight Champion in a well-earned victory. A match with an unpredictable outcome, out of nowhere spots, and plenty of excitement to keep you hooked throughout.
WINNER: WILL OSPREAY
IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Jay White
Immediately you could feel the hatred Jay White emanated towards Tanahashi. Taking his knee and working on it every second that he could. Which is why when Tanahashi fought back, he brought it with higher intensity than White would anticipate. You try fighting back from a Frog Splash off the top turnbuckle to the outside, after all. The match went back and forth, seemingly getting closer and closer to White to achieving victory, but Tanahashi would always be there to stop him dead in his tracks.
The match ended with Tanahashi hitting the Frog Splash and retaining his IWGP Intercontinental Championship. Jay White got a decent showing in this match, managing to get some offence in and seem to be a genuine threat to Tanahashi’s title. All in all, a decent match and an excellent springboard for White to leap from in his New Japan career.
WINNER: HIROSHI TANAHASHI
IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship No Disqualification Match: Kenny Omega (c) vs. Chris Jericho
We got full-on rage to kick off with as Omega and Jericho went at it, refusing to hold back and wanting to fully destroy each other. The first big highlight to take away from this match is how Jericho has handled his character in New Japan. This Chris Jericho is the biggest bastard you will have come across tonight, slapping the referee and putting another member of staff in the Walls of Jericho, and stealing a camera to take pictures of his middle finger to the crowd is a definite way to avoid making friends. It’s an understatement to say that Jericho is a genius with this persona, and it massively gives Omega a boost in his already popular and successful career. Omega has been given the ultimate bad guy to take on, overcoming him will be his biggest challenge thus giving the audience a reason to cheer as loud as we possibly can.
Jericho took advantage after smashing Omega’s head onto a chair, causing him to become busted wide open. While Omega tried to fight back, Jericho continued the assault. Eventually, Omega would fight back, but all it would take to keep both men down would once again be a steel chair. Both men fought on, getting battered, bruised, and exhausted trying to secure the win. Even when you think it’s all over and Omega finally hit the One Winged Angel, Jericho grabs the ropes. You’re begging for Omega to get some retribution.
Finally, Kenny Omega got the win after hitting his finisher onto a steel chair and retaining his belt. What a match, it lived up to the hype and made a statement to the world that Kenny Omega is THE guy in the wrestling world today.
WINNER: KENNY OMEGA
Main Event: IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match: “Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito
What started with a sportsmanlike and civilised beginning soon turned sour as Naito struck first. The battle ensued, with each move feeling extra forceful as Naito looked to take out Okada early on. Okada strived to get on top throughout the beginning, Naito decided that he was going to keep on Okada and refused to let him get a single foothold in the match. The momentum would change when Okada managed to slide in a move like a DDT off the barrier, or reversing into a flapjack. Okada struggled to keep on top of Naito, attempts at a Rainmaker failed and even holding a submission wasn’t enough to get the job done. But in turn, a Reverse Frankenstiener from the top turnbuckle wasn’t able to take out Okada. They were down, but resilient in order to win that belt.
We thought it was all over as Okada hit the Rainmaker, until a last minute kick out from Naito kept Okada from retaining his belt. The tension rose, could Naito steal it all? Naito executed the Testino, but the exhaustion had got to him and couldn’t even capitalise on the situation. The fight waged on as strike after strike hit, all ending in a disrespectful slap by Naito.
Even if these two fought until the end of time, I bet the audience would want an encore as they managed to pull out all the stops to make this an instant classic. In the end, Okada managed to retain his belt with one final Rainmaker and remain as the IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
WINNER: KAZUCHIKA OKADA
Want something to kick off the year right in 2018? Then make Wrestle Kingdom 12 a must-see for you and anyone else who wants to see why NJPW is making ripples in the wrestling world already.
RESULTS & WINNERS:
* Pre Show: New Japan Rumble (Wrestle Kingdom annual Battle Royal) – Masahito Kakihara
* IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match: The Young Bucks
* NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship Gauntlet Match: Chaos
* Singles Match: Kota Ibushi
* IWGP Tag Team Championship Match: Los Ingobernables de Japon
* NEVER Openweight Championship Loser haircut and no seconds Deathmatch: Hirooki Goto
* IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Four-Way Match: Will Ospreay
* IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi
* IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship No Disqualification Match: Kenny Omega
* IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match: “Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada