NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12 (4/1/18) Review

Added by Matt Seese

IWGP Junior Tag Team Titles: The Young Bucks def. Roppongi 3K (c) (18:49)

This whole match was very inconsistent They had a very clunky, confusing start, and selling that didn’t sit well with me. Why is Matt trying to sell the same worked injury that Yoh did just three minutes prior? Very confusing and frustrating. However, the middle portion picked up nicely and then…that rushed finish. It was okay…I guess. I really didn’t see why the Bucks had to go over here as New Japan had the chance to help create a bigger pair of stars out of Sho and Yoh, but as we will see throughout this show, the right man doesn’t always win ***

NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Titles: CHAOS (Ishii, Trent, Yano) def. Bullet Club (Fale, GoD), Suzuki-gun (SZJ, Taichi, Iizuka), War Machine & Michael Elgin, Taguchi Japan (Taguchi, Juice, Makabe)

Anything to see a title on Ishii. Also Trent got his first win as a heavyweight! Always awesome to see Trent bumping like Trent, and the change of weight class hasn’t changed any of that. However, these titles seem to bounce around from random thrown together teams within factions, so the match could’ve been a classic, and I wouldn’t have really cared. The CHAOS trio will probably lose the belts at New Year Dash tomorrow, and I wouldn’t even be surprised ***1/4

Kota Ibushi def. Cody (15:08)

Simply put, it’s the best Cody match since he’s debuted on the indies. The lower portion of the card needed a great match to more or less complete the card as a whole, and this delivered in spades. There was an absolutely mental spot where Ibushi was looking for either a piledriver or his Golden Star Powerbomb from the apron to the floor, but Cody was able to counter, gain control, and hit a Cross-Rhodes from the apron to the floor, and Ibushi’s neck ate all of it. I was worried what the lack of the ROH Title would do to this match, but for me, it ended up helping the unpredictability of the finish. Ibushi hit the Golden Star Powerbomb on Cody, but the ever resilient former champ was able to kick out. All match long, especially nearing the finish, Ibushi was looking for the Kamigoye knee strike, but he just wasn’t able to hit it. After Cody failed at hitting a Cross-Rhodes, Ibushi was able to counter and drill two of them into the skull of Cody and pick up a huge win. An awesome match that absolutely blew my expectations out of the water ****¼

IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles: LIJ (EVIL & SANADA) def. Killer Elite Squad (c) (14:14)

KES dominated for at least 70% of this match, if not more, and they should’ve had this match won at least three times, and they damn near won within the first five seconds. However, the heart and will of both SANADA and EVIL were too much for even the most dominating of performances from Davey Boy Jr. and Archer. It’s really nice to see the entirety of LIJ get what appears to be a total face turn in different storylines all at once. It’s also really nice to finally see EVIL and SANADA with some tag team gold around their waists. Here’s to hoping Gedo cares enough to make their reign worthwhile ***½

NEVER Openweight Championship: Hair vs. Hair – Hirooki Goto def. Minoru Suzuki (c) (18:04)

While I was still pretty bitter about Ishii not being in this spot over Goto, this match felt incredibly personal, and that’s all thanks to Suzuki. He is the most terrifying, sadistic man in the history of pro wrestling. Inflicting pain arouses him. He smiles when he gets hit. He feeds off pain. It’s both creepy and delightful to watch. Most of this match was built on Suzuki controlling the tempo and playing mind games with Goto. However, Goto was able to eventually find the strength to match Suzuki’s strikes and begin to take him down as Suzuki had done to him all match. The entire match was a really great back and forth with Goto eventually hitting the GTR, finally putting his doubts and Suzuki’s hair to rest. Suzuki, almost out of respect, would leave the ring, grab his own chair, come back into the ring, and shave his head ****¼

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Will Ospreay def. Marty Scurll (c), Hiromu Takahashi, KUSHIDA (21:18)

Ospreay finally did it. He finally got that monkey off his back named Marty Scurll. This match was tremendous all around with only a few little missteps that were relatively meaningless. I will say that I was pulling for Hiromu to get his chance to shine amidst the other three and prove that he is the best, but that poor guy couldn’t do hardly anything right until the double sunset bomb spot. Very symbolic of his past number of months in New Japan. KUSHIDA was terrific. He was, as always, the rock that held the match together. Marty was the only one of the four that I had questions about considering just how bad he’s been the past four months, but he delivered a great performance here as well. New Japan went a different route with this match by making it a fatal-4-way, and it was the right call. All four men look like even bigger stars of that division coming out of this ****½

IWGP Intercontinental Championship; Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) def. Switchblade Jay White (19:43)

This was ugly. I’m not sure who thought Jay White portraying a sadistic character was a good idea, but they were dead wrong. He could tell Tana he wanted to kill him, but he’d have the most babyface look on his face. It was confusing and very awkward to watch throughout this match. I wasn’t keen on White losing here as it’s just a big wet fart in his face by debuting a big character for him in this level of a spot on the card, but at the same time, him winning would’ve been a massive step down. He doesn’t have his character figured out or its mannerisms. Definitely going to take him some time to figure this whole thing out **¾

IWGP United States Championship: No DQ – Kenny Omega (c) def. Chris Jericho (34:36)

I think it’s safe to say that Chris Jericho is one of the best wrestlers ever and that Kenny Omega is probably the best wrestler in the world today. This was an all-out war from bell to bell. Within the first 10 minutes, the match had already spilled to the outside beyond the barricades. There was an awesome spot where Jericho was sent over into the announce table area by Kenny. Kenny went for a dive, but Jericho bated him in just long enough to send Omega flying through the English announce team’s table. This match more or less showcased both men’s greatest hits while still crafting a beautiful story, something both men are experts at. Jericho is the first man in a loooong long time to get sustained heat from bell to bell in Japan like he did here, and that is just the most Chris Jericho thing ever. Jericho taunted Omega, he taunted the crowd, the Japanese announcers, Kevin Kelly and Don. He gave no fucks while trying to drive the final dagger into Omega to prove he was the Alpha of wrestling, but the ever resilient Omega fired up, fought back, and hit Jericho with every V-Trigger and Dragon Suplex imaginable, softening him up for the One Winged Angel, but yet again, Omega found himself hitting it too close to the ropes, allowing the veteran Jericho to reach out and grab them to break the count. Jericho would go for the Codebreaker only for Omega to counter into another One Winged Angel attempt, but Jericho was able to roll this one through into the Walls of Jericho. As Omega scratched and clawed towards the ropes, Jericho transitioned the Walls into a Lion Tamer, but yet again, Kenny fought out, hit a V-Trigger, and then he finally hit the One Winged Angel to put the final nail in the coffin for Jericho. A superb match with elite storytelling. Can’t ask for much better ****¾

IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada (c) def. Tetsuya Naito (34:26) 

Where do I start? Simply put, it’s one of the best matches of the last decade, but it arguably would’ve been the best had the right man won. It all felt right. The man, the show, the venue, and that crowd. It all felt as if it were Naito’s time, but he just had to go for that last Destino. He got too overzealous and it’s almost like inexperience in the big match cost him. I do think the wrong man won, yes, but I also think the story told between the two men was tremendous. The final stretch of this match is of the best final 10 minutes that you’ll ever see to a match as these two hit each other with everything they could. They clearly are setting up for the rematch as Naito proved that just one Rainmaker cannot beat him, so if he sticks to his game plan and executes it perfectly, next time could be that time (even though now was the time to do it). The question now is does Naito topple this historic reign of Okada, or does Omega? *****

Also, my final question. Okada. Those pants. Dude…?

Show Grade: A- (9.3/10)

This was a terrific show with the best wrestlers on the planet showcasing why they are exactly that. However, the bafflingly bad calls on some of the winners of the matches really blew my mind, especially with Naito, but we should’ve all seen this coming. New Japan is the best at failing to capitalize on what they have and then do it way too late. However, criticisms aside, Wrestle Kingdom 12 was a blast. It’s not often you get to see the three best wrestlers of 2017 and Chris Jericho all in one show, but we did and it was amazing. Can’t wait to do this again next January 4.