NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 10 Review

Wrestle Kingdom 10 Logo.jpeg

Hello everyone and welcome to the NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 10 review! The hype for this show has been huge and, with there apparently being a recent raid by the WWE, NJPW is in the news. This show is going to be huge, without a doubt, and is the closest any company can get to a Wrestlemania feel. I am beyond excited for this show and cannot wait for it to begin. Lets get the review underway!

The show begins with a stellar video running down every match on the card and the buildup. It was a very simple video, but it succeeds in hyping the show and makes the show feel huge. We begin with our first match…

ReDragon vs. Ricochet & Matt Sydal vs. Roppongi Vice vs. The Young Bucks.jpeg

ReDRagon (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish) (c.) vs. The Young Bucks (w/ Cody Hall) vs. Roppongi Vice (Beretta & Rocky Romero) vs. Ricochet & Matt Sydal – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match

            There was not a better opener on this card than this match. While I do agree that this probably should have been Sydal & Ricochet vs. ReDRagon, not a four-way, these multi-team tags always are, at worst, fun. This was no exception but, unlike last year, this match got time to breath and build up to spots. That really did help this match, as the early going got to be a bit slow before all hell broke lose. While this never reached great levels of action and never blew my mind, it was still very fast paced and was an absolute joy to watch. The spots were fast and impactful, the dives were wacky and fun, and the Bullet Club interference never felt obtrusive. Along with all that, the finishing stretch built well and the finish was solid. This is definitely in the upper half of these types of matches, and was the perfect opener for NJPW’s biggest show of the year.

Rating: ***½

Next up we get to see the first NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Titles match…

Toru Yan & The Briscoe Brothers vs. The Bullet Club.jpeg 

Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Toru Yano & The Briscoe Brothers (Jay & Mark Briscoe) – NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship Match

            This was by no means a bad match, but it was very simple and absolutely nothing spectacular. It had a very basic format, where The Bullet Club got the heat on Yano, Mark made the comeback, and Jay and Tonga had some back and forth before the finish. Aside from the very basic formula, Yano had some cute comedy spots that got over and the Briscoes had some solid brawling. Aside from that, nothing really stood out. No one did anything too impressive, and even the long back and forth sequence between Jay and Tonga felt bland. The finish, however, was quite good and the right guys won this match. While this match was solid by means of move execution and there were no botches, this had no compelling action to speak of to latch onto.

Rating: **½

This bleeds directly into our next match, which is…

Jay Lethal vs. Michael Elgin.jpeg

Jay Lethal (w/ Truth Martini) (c.) vs. Michael Elgin – ROH World Heavyweight Championship Match

            This is by far the worst match on the show so far and suffers from the issues of both the previous two matches. Like in the first match, there was interference, but unlike how the interference didn’t damage the match overall, this interference was completely distracting and took away. Since Lethal is brand new to NJPW, having the first portion of the match be goofy, cutesy interference hurt the crowd’s minimal investment. The crowd was, therefore, silent for the majority of the match and only got invested when Elgin took control or did something cool. That still did not get the crowd totally invested, and by the end, even I could not care one bit. Speaking of the end, the finish totally derailed the match and hurt the finish. The garbage finish came off completely flat and killed the already lukewarm crowd. Maybe in front of a different crowd this could be good, but these two worked the worst match to try and get a brand new crowd invested.

Rating: **

Now it is time for, on paper, one of the more exciting bouts on the card…

Kenny Omega vs. Kushida.jpeg

Kenny Omega (w/ The Young Bucks) (c.) vs. KUSHIDA (w/Ryusuke Taguchi) – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match

            Taguchi is with KUSHIDA and is dressed as Doc Brown. Awesome. Omega, however, enters to the Terminator II music in a leather coat, which is pretty cool as well.

This was an exceptionally fun match that was also deceptively smart. This match had everything a really good match needs: great psychology, awesome selling, good characters and crisp action. Early on, Omega really established himself as a rude, disrespectful champion, spitting and slapping KUSHIDA during his early control. Soon, however, this match developed into a back and forth contest where KUSHIDA tried his damndest to wear down the arm for the hoverboard lock, while Omega played a game of keep away with his arm. Fun action and absolutely tremendous selling accented this great psychology too. Omega sold his arm like a champ, not only selling that he could not use it, but modifying his strategy as well. For example, to show he could not use his arm, he hit a one-handed powerbomb with the healthy arm. That is very solid, but above and beyond that, Omega shifted his striking from the slaps and chops to knees and kicks now that his arm was of no use. That was very well done and a highly commendable wrinkle in his selling. Now, onto the action, which was great as well. Omega was tremendous with his crisp strikes and great crisp offense, and, on the other side of the ring, KUSHIDA was highly focused with his great work on the arm. Not only was his offense diverse, but he also got more and more impactful with his arm-centered offense as the finish neared. The finish was another one on this card that succeeded in its goals. It kept both men very string while also doing the right thing, especially now knowing the events after this show. The only real flaws are that the match was just a tad to short to reach even higher stature and, during the finish, it was clear that a shoulder wasn’t down. Otherwise, this match was tremendous and the first great match I’ve seen in 2016.

Rating: ****

We go directly to our next match, which is…

Karl Anderson & DOC Gallows vs. Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe.jpeg

The Bullet Club (Karl Anderson & DOC Gallows) (w/ Amber Gallows) (c.) vs. Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma – IWGP Tag Team Championship Match

            This was a match where every person here had a role and played it to perfection. Anderson was the scrappier, douchebag heel and, while he wasn’t the largest, he would use his tenacity and brains to take control. Gallows was the big heel bruiser, who was able to use his size to punish his two opponents. Makabe, in a similar light to Gallows, was a bruiser as well, and only lost the advantage due to cheating. Finally, there is Honma, who wasn’t the best wrestler, but showed the most heart. That is what was great about Honma, he somehow is portrayed as the worst wrestler in the match, but his heart in hi performance makes him a believable threat, but I digress. During the match these roles were always consistent, and always maintained. For example, since Honma isn’t a great wrestler, he is dominated in the early going, but when Makabe is in control, he has the heels in trouble until they cheat. Throughout the match, Karl and DOC also play huge heels, and it was well done. They were constantly mouthing off and cheating to get the crowd in favor of Honma & Makabe. Contrasting that, Honma, like always, is the greatest face in the world and garners sympathy like no one else. His charming offense and mannerisms gets the crowd behind him so well that all his matches get pretty hot. This was overall a very smartly worked match with great characters, good, fun offense, and rock solid psychology.

Rating: ***¾

The next match is the first non-title match of the month…

Hirooki Goto vs. Tetsuya Naito.jpeg

Tetsuya Naito (w/ EVIL) vs. Hirooki Goto

Naito enters with a really cool entrance where everyone is wearing very Dia De Los Muertos-esque masks.

This is another match where the characters in the match shine just as much as the action. From moment one, Naito is in firm control of the match, and will use all means, even nefarious ones, to gain the advantage. Goto, on the other hand, does a great job showing heart and fighting from underneath. Throughout the match, Naito’s constant control allowed him to build up his offense and wear down Goto before his big moves. In order to even the odds of the match, Goto would use big moves in his comebacks to try to make up ground fast, which was very smart psychology. Down the stretch, as Goto started to gain momentum in the match, Naito and Los Ingobernables’ cheating became another obstacle that Goto had to fight through, which was a very fun wrinkle in the match. On top of the story and characters, all the action looked crisp and tremendous, with some moves, like a top rope huricanrana, being hit picture perfect. This is another very well rounded match where everything is done well, and is a big asset on this already great show.

Rating: ***½            

Now, it is time for the business end of the card. Our next match is…

Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tomohiro Ishii.jpeg

Tomohiro Ishii (c.) vs. Katsuyori Shibata – NEVER Openweight Championship Match

            This was one of the manliest matches I have ever seen, but there is also a little more here than meets the eye. However, as this match is primarily about the action, lets start with the action. As if you didn’t know from the names involved, this match was as stiff as they come. All the strikes had absolutely bone chilling impact and the noise off some of the head-butts was sickening in the best way. There was very little pretense here; this was an all out brawl with pride and the hardest strikes in wrestling. On top of how hard the strikes were, I was especially impressed, as I often am, with how precise Shibata’s strikes were. Every kick he threw found its mark perfectly and each elbow was a beautiful work of violence. It is impressive how spectacular his strikes look, and this is compared to the strikes of someone like Ishii, who, if Shibata has the best strikes, Ishii is a close second. While this match was mostly about watching two men destroy each other with kicks and elbows, there was a little more here that made it just that much better. There were miniscule things, like when Shibata fell but draped his leg across the ropes to prevent a pinfall attempt, and then there was good structure, where Shibata would force Ishii to fight from underneath in extremely compelling fashion, and THEN there was the silky submission transitions of Shibata with an Octopus hold and a triangle choke, and on top of all that there was the idea that this match was all about pride and what two men would do to maintain their pride and reputation. This match is right in my wheelhouse and is the perfect match for me. While the no selling may annoy some people, it makes sense in the match with the pride and what not. Overall this seems to be 2016’s first MOTYC, and it’s a very strong candidate.

Rating: ****¾

After a very good video package hyping our next match, we get our semi main event…

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. AJ Styles.jpeg

Shinsuke Nakamura (c.) vs. AJ Styles – IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match

AJ’s entrance is a little basic, but in a good way. There is still a big time feel with pyro and special attire though. Nakamura has an entrance with a huge feel. He just exudes charisma and star power, which is evident in the entrance.

This match is great in so many ways that I cannot do it justice. I’m not going to fuck around with analysis yet, but instead cut to the chase. This is a 5* classic. There is nothing you can do to convince me otherwise. Through my analysis, know that my words are not good enough to accurately describe this match, and that I do not have enough time or space to hit every point I have. Lets start at the beginning to try to break this down. Early on Shinsuke and Styles started slow, feeling each other out since they haven’t wrestled each other often. There was some usual Nakamura cockiness and taunting, but the tide suddenly changed when AJ feigned a back injury to cheap shot Nakamura. From that point on play was over and it was an all out war. Nakamura was incest at the unsportsmanlike conduct and punished AJ by sending him into the guardrail and attacking his back, but soon AJ got the advantage. This back and forth transition of control continued up to the finish where each transition meant something in the match. I have two prominent examples, but I am positive I am glossing over other ones. First, AJ did a phenomenal job avoiding the Boma Ye and neutralizing Nakamura’s best attack. However, as soon as one Boma Ye hit, a barrage of offense followed and brought Nakamura back into the match. Another transition emphasizes AJ’s overconfidence, when he had a Styles Clash in the center, but decided to bring Nakamura to the corner to try for a top rope Styles Clash. This was then countered, as Styles wasted too much time instead of finishing him off. Also, to build off AJ countering the Boma Ye, each man had the other’s patented moves pegged and countered; yet as the match wore on, they were unable to reverse as effectively. This is another wrinkle in an already brilliant match. The final point I will bring up, which is assuredly not the final great thing about this match, is the action, which was some of the best I have ever seen. Every sequence, reversal, and move was crisp, impactful, and had a purpose in psychology, story and character. Some reversal sequences were beautiful, and one reversal into a finisher led to me marking out. I cannot accurately display how good this was. I feel like I have barely even scratched the surface, but I have a screen full of words already. In closing, WATCH THIS NOW!

Rating: *****

There is an epic moment post match where Nakamura offers the first bump and AJ accepts. That was epic.

AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura Fist Bump.png

Next up, it is finally time for our MAIN EVENT!

Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi.jpeg 

Kazuchika Okada (c.) (w/ Gedo) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – IWGP World Heavyweight Championship

The big fight feel is here in spades as both men enter. This is by far the biggest match in wrestling. Okada’s entrance is simple, epic, and one of the best of all time. Everything, from the attire to the money reigning down, makes Okada feel like a huge star. However, the best part is when the music cut out and the spotlight shined directly on Okada, symbolizing his rebirth. This match is going to be epic!

This is one of, if not the, greatest match of all time. This is storytelling perfection with great action, amazing near falls, and iconic moments. This match does more in the first five minutes than most do in its entirety. They don’t necessarily do more in a moves sense, they do more with every action and emotion to establish the match’s story. In the first five minutes, both roles are established and the stage is set. Okada, after patting on Tanahashi on the chest to break a collar and elbow tie-up, ducks and elbow and hits one of his own. This shows two primary things: first, both men have counters for the counter’s counters, and second, Okada is just a step faster, a tad younger, and a bit better. Tanahashi, however, slaps the taste out of Okada’s mouth, showing he is the veteran and the man to beat. To neutralize Okada’s age, talent, and speed, Tanahashi targets both legs to give himself two easy to access openings if need be. With the stage set and the advantages and disadvantages established, these two go all out and make art. They play off the previous match, play off their established roles, taunt each other, reverse each other endlessly, and seamlessly flow from plot to subplot, from story to story. It is legitimately incredible. Primarily, the amount of reversals is absolutely insane, and there are more reversals than any match I have ever seen. Again, this has meaning, as this suggests that these two are so familiar with each other they know what the other will do before the other even does. The final thing I’m going to touch on, glossing over so much quality wrestling, is everything past the first Rainmaker. Again, the Rainmaker does not do the job for Okada, but, since he has improved, he does not let it get to his head last year. He cleverly shocks Tanahashi by stealing the High Fly Flow. Not to be outdone, Tanahashi steals the Rainmaker. In order to succeed, they need to pull out new tricks to surprise the opponent. Then, after much struggle, Okada hits a German suplex, and seamlessly flows into a Rainmaker. That Rainmaker, however, is reversed, in one last burst of energy, into a slap from Tanahashi. However, Okada does not let go.

Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi Wrist.png

This moment is powerful for many reasons. It is symbolic of how, even though these two will move on from this feud, they will never fully let go of each other. It is symbolic of Okada’s single-minded desire to win, by any means. It shows that, once and for all, Okada holds on the longest, takes the most punishment, and comes out the better man. This whole match is filled with this level of brilliance, and I cannot pretend to do it justice. This might just be the greatest match of all time, and this is surely why I am a wrestling fan.

Rating: *****

Paralleling last year, Tanahashi is helped out like Okada was last year and Okada stands tall in the ring. Gedo cuts a promo, but I don’t speak Japanese so I have no clue what he said. Yatsu translates and apparently he says Okada is the only man in the upper echelon of NJPW and he is on a different level. He also says Okada is the future and IWGP Champion. Okada then takes the mic and says Tanahashi is done, and stay tuned. The show closes with a chorus of Okada chants and Okada celebrating. Close curtain.

Overall:

            This is a perfect show. While every match isn’t good, there are 3 classic matches and 2 5* matches. Also, there are multiple matches at or above ***½, and everything else was at least fun. This is pretty much as good as wrestling can get, and sets the bar high for 2016.

Overall Rating: *****
So that was the NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 10 review! If you enjoyed, like, comment, and maybe even follow my blog. If you want to keep up with this site, my contacts and social media are here or in the sidebar to the left. Also, check out my work at Free Pro Wrestling, which is a great site where a person more talented than I write about great, legal, free matches. A few quick updates, my AJPW 1990s series is in the works, and I am on the prologue. 3 out of the 5 matches are done for part 1 of the prologue. After that, it’s Starrcade 1991 time! Otherwise, stay tuned and I hope to see you next time.

-Terrance Smith

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