FSM’s Will Cooling gives The Indy Corner five new thoughts about Wrestle Kingdom 13
This Was Wrestle Kingdom 9 Redux
The Indy Corner’s very own Benno went to Twitter to beg NJPW to keep the show to within four hours. He got his wish and strangely nobody made the same connection I made in advance, which was that if it kept to time, it would be due to the Internet PPV window NJPW had agreed with FITE. This actually made the show very similar Wrestle Kingdom 9, which was also streamed worldwide on FITE and on traditional PPV throughout North America. Whilst it’s now remembered as a classic, that show also attracted criticism for heavily hyped undercard matches being cut short due to the unusually short running time. I imagine the reputation of this show will likewise grow over time.
Breaking the Addiction to Near-Falls
I’ve frequently made the point that fast finishing sequences filled with near-falls have become the only match climax that many fans will be satisfied with. Whether its Brock Lesnar’s underrated performances in 2017 or Seth Rollins’ overrated performances in 2018, this standard has long clouded critical appraisals. But such a cookie-cutter approach to popping the crowd is overly reductive. It divorces the ringwork from the storylines that the promotion is trying to tell, because trading near-falls during the closing stretch can only tell one story – an even sporting contest with no dominant winner. In key matches, NJPW wanted to tell the story of Will Ospreay, Zack Sabre Jr, Juice Robinson and Ishimori clearly defeating their opponents. It’s time that we better view matches in the context of the storylines that they’re meant to be a part of, and by that standard, no one should be bemoaning the one-sided matches and sudden finishes.
The Young Bucks Were Misused
Everybody who moaned that The Young Bucks were a third wheel in the tag team match were proven right by a match that barely had enough time for the other teams’ entrances. If this was their last match for NJPW, counterintuitively, I think the better way to say goodbye would’ve been to put them in the pre-show trios gauntlet match. That would’ve given them the opportunity to interact with heavyweights that they had been kept away from for much of their time in Japan, and the time to really shine. It could also have been the opportunity to use them to kickstart future storylines for ROH and NJPW. Of course, there are good reasons to believe NJPW may not have wanted to do that.
Marty Scrull, May Also Be GONE GONE
Given the bellyaching about Ring of Honor trying to get heel heat on The Elite in their final appearance, it’s bemusing how their brutal jobbing out at Wrestle Kingdom has not attracted more criticism. Worse, NJPW didn’t feature any of them on New Year’s Dash, despite that being an obvious move given the angle where Chase Owens and Yujiro re-join The Bullet Club. Having The Elite challenge for the titles would not only have made their mistreated buddies’ heel turn more impactful, but given closure to The Elite’s feud with The Bullet Club. That this didn’t happen demonstrates how annoyed NJPW are with The Elite.
To me, it seems that Marty Scrull has been caught up in the crossfire, despite still being contracted to ROH. He was also nowhere to be seen on New Year’s Dash, and rather than have him challenge Ishimori during New Beginnings they’ve made the unusual decision to return Taguchi to the Juniorheavyweight division. Furthermore, they could easily have used the two shows to either introduce NJPW fans to Villain Enterprises or have him also make peace with the erstwhile Firing Squad. I doubt we’ll see Scrull in a prominent NJPW match until his, or AEW’s, relationship with ROH is resolved.
Revolution Pro-Wrestling Was a Missed Opportunity at New Year’s Dash
No one can criticise the presentation of the Revolution Pro-Wrestling British Heavyweight Title at Wrestle Kingdom, but NJPW missed an opportunity to use their UK partner to further their storylines for New Beginnings. Minoru Suzuki and Zack Sabre Jr will be challenging for the IGWP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles in Sapporo. Given that both Aussie Open and CCK were in Japan for Fight Club: PRO and Big Japan Pro-Wrestling, surely it would have made sense for Suzuki-Gunn to defend their British Tag Team Titles to underline that they are a serious threat to Evil and Sanada.
Will Cooling is regular contributor to Fighting Spirit Magazine, the UK’s biggest and best newsstand combat sports monthly, which is available worldwide through Pocketmags. This month’s issue contains FSM’s Top 50 pro-wrestlers worldwide, and also Will’s feature on Pro-Wrestling Eve’s She-1. He also writes about West Midlands pro-wrestling for the Express and Starr and co-hosts It Could Be Wrestling and First Pod of Fight Club Pro.