One of the best WKs ever. Match for match, I’m not sure it reached the heights of WK11, but something about this show really did the job for me. I think it was the diversity of match types and the overall quality of the card. NJPW really takes advantage of their match formats. Since it’s so close to the finish and yet to air in the US, I’m trying not to detail too much about what happens.
New Japan Rumble
Fun little preshow bit, some nice surprise entrants, and a feelgood win to honor Takayama.
Match 1 – Young Bucks v. Roppongi 3K (C) for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Titles
A solid if unspectacular match elevated enormously by brilliant storytelling. Some brutally hard bumps and smart selling of said bumps led to wonderful match dynamics late. This will not be the last great match between these two.
Match 2 – NEVER 6 Man Tag Title Gauntlet feat. GoD/Fale (C) vs. War Machine/Elgin vs. Iizuka/Sabre/Taichi vs Yano/Ishii/Baretta
Fun, but NJPW continues to underutilize trios. I feel bad for Sabre slumming with the rest of Suzuki-gun. Can we more talent in there so he has a proper partner? Some really nice spots, no harm on the card. Fuck Mike Elgin.
Match 3 – Cody vs Kota Ibushi
A match that didn’t entirely live up to its potential due to the very real need to get Cody over with the NJPW crowd. It worked, there was massive heat on Cody by the end. When you have a heel-getting-over match though the work rate tends to lag. I really need to see Cody improve in that regard but it was still very solid with a hot last few minutes and one spot Cody doles out that is a WK highlight. Overall I think this could have been Cody’s best ever if it wasn’t for the necessary heel selling, and because of that falls just short of his G1 Special bout vs. Okada.
Match 4 – Killer Elite Squad (C) vs EVIL/SANADA for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Titles
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect here other than it being really stiff but this was actually great. LIJ worked from under almost the entire time and the drama remained high. The only problem is this is a common pattern for NJPW but the boys did good with it.
Match 5 – Minoru Suzuki (C) vs. Hirooki Goto for the NEVER Openweight Title
This was the match I was least excited about and it turned out to be a barn burner. Another come-from-behind match but with smarter and more interesting match dynamics. Goto’s best in a long time.
Match 6 – Hiromu Takahashi vs. KUSHIDA vs. Will Ospreay vs. Marty Scurll (C) for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title
This was the one I expected to be a show stealer. It wasn’t entirely but it did offer some surprises. It wasn’t really a spot fest and focused more on group psychology. There were definitely some big planned spots but they weren’t out of control. NJ made the most of the 4-way format with some really smart pin breaks late. The finish was outstanding.
Match 7 – Jay White vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (C) for the IWGP Intercontinental Title
People are hating on this more than it deserves. Blame the booking if you want but this kinda had to be a sell-the-heel match with a lower workrate. Jay should not have been put in this position and to be honest I really think it’s time for Tanahashi to get the arm fixed and take a break. Overall it didn’t hurt the card but it was a little bit of a downer in the middle of a bunch of really good ones.
Match 8 – Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega (C) for the US Title
I expected Kenny to carry Jericho to a reasonable match and while Kenny certainly carried, Jericho put in work. They brought the classic American T&C match to a Japanese crowd and NJPW pacing. This was a relevatory match and the crowd was super hot. The officials screwed up two spots fairly badly but it wasn’t a huge deal. NJPW needs to think harder about what no-DQ means but this overdelivered on every level.
Match 9 – Tetsuya Naito vs Kazuchika Okada (C) for the IWGP Heavyweight Title
Okada’s pants are shit. This is predictably strong but also had an unfair amount of hype that could never be hit. Not as good as their previous peaks but still very good. This was probably the most questionable booking but I can only hope Gedo knows what he is doing.