King of Pro Wrestling is one of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s big shows of the year, and this Monday night was no exception. Storylines were put into place as we head full speed into Wrestle Kingdom on January 4, and the in-ring action was top notch. There were a couple of spectacular matches at the top of the card that really topped off the night and helped to cover one disappointing match that was marred by injury. So without further ado, let’s break down King of Pro Wrestling 2016
Okada Retains in a Masterclass
Wow what a way to finish King of Pro Wrestling. Marufugi’s decimation of the IWGP Heavyweight Champion in the G1 was great to watch, and then they went and topped it by a considerable margin here. This match contained a lot of storytelling as the champion again struggled to find his footing against Marufugi. Whether it was being peppered with high impact knees and Marufugi’s brilliant array of head kicks, or the dozens of blistering chops it continued the narrative that NOAH’s ace had The Rainmaker’s number. He even busted out a piledriver on the apron which brought the crowd to their feet.
Eventually Okada was able to retain, after he turned a second tombstone piledriver attempt into his own version of Naomichi’s Emerald Flowsion, before capping it off with his signature Rainmaker. Kazuchika Okada constantly puts together some of the best finishing sequences and this main event was no different. Hats off to the both of them for this match, and potentially add this to the growing list of NJPW candidates for match of the year.
Omega Books his Tokyo Dome Ticket
If you didn’t know it before, you do now: Kenny Omega and Hiroki Goto have fantastic chemistry together. Although I think their G1 match was better, this was still a fantastic matchup with some great back and forth high impact wrestling. It started with a band as Goto used Omega’s briefcase on him before the bell rang, showing a more desperate and aggressive side that makes sense given the circumstances. Plenty of nice near falls capped off with a great finish as Goto tried to free himself from the One Winged Angel before succumbing to it.
What ultimately keeps this match from beating their G1 final clash was the storytelling, which I think was stronger back in August. We also had more Bullet Club antics here as the Young Bucks got involved throughout the first half before ‘Red Shoes’ ejected them from ringside (along with Yoshi-Hashi). We did get to add another two superkicks onto the ‘Young Bucks Superkick Counter’ for the night at least. It’s a tough loss for Goto, who again fails when the lights shine brightest. Omega and Okada is now official, as it seems neither the briefcase or the IWGP Heavyweight Title will be on the line at Power Struggle. It was inevitable anyway, and this will be a good one to build towards.
Shibata is Still Alive, But the Vultures are Looming
Let’s be honest here, it was obvious Katsuyori Shibata was not 100% coming into his match with Kyle O’Reilly. This fact just makes it even more impressive that these guys were able to put on such a great match. It was everything you’d expect from these two: hard hitting, brutal and exciting. It started off very ground-based, reminiscent of MMA at times and while O’Reilly constantly looked to be getting the better of Shibata he never looked fully in control. It transferred into a trading of submissions and stiff strikes which was all in all just a joy to watch before Shibata choked out O’Reilly, forcing a referee stoppage to get one back on O’Reilly who won in a similar fashion in their first match in Ring of Honour.
Kudos to Shibata for teasing his coconut crushing headbutt but not pulling it off. I love and hate seeing him do that, and if he’s going to keep doing it he should at least conserve them for Wrestle Kingdom stages. We also got a great show of respect between the two of them at the end, which is uncharacteristic for Shibata’s character but speaks highly of O’Reilly (and Bobby Fish, who he also shook hands with). Hopefully we get to see these two go at it again down the road because this was brilliant.
Shiozaki Go made his intentions known after the match too, coming into the ring for a standoff with the NEVER Open Champion. And just when you think Shibata can rest he gets jumped from behind by Evil, who then posed with the title. If I had to guess I’d say Evil will get the first shot at Power Struggle, with Shiozaki Go being saved for a big Wrestle Kingdom showdown, but I wouldn’t mind Evil getting the spotlight come January.
Los Ingobernables Lose, but Injure Everyone
I’m a big fan of Los Ingobernables De Japon and so I was expecting good things from their 8 man showdown against Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin, Kushida and Jay Lethal. Unfortunately sometimes things just go wrong. This was a match that fell apart due to injuries. Namely, Kushida took an ugly bump off a back-cracker attempt by Bushi and seemed to injure his wrist. The match slowed to a halt as they tried to check on him, and then Elgin suffered a facial fracture and was notably hampered for the rest of the match – which is perfectly understandable.
The finish clearly had to be changed on the fly, and overall it was an ugly mess. Elgin hit the Elgin Bomb on Naito to pick up the pinfall, potentially setting up the Power Struggle main event in a rematch for the Intercontinental Title. Tanahashi and Sanada had a bit of interaction in what could be leading to a Power Struggle one on one match as well, which if their G1 match was anything to go by should be great.
Considering Kushida’s apparent injury, it was surprising to see him get involved in the post match beat down. He took Evil’s signature chair smash and then Bushi’s Codebreaker onto another chair. It was clear they wanted Kushida to leave the ring on a stretcher, but given it looks like he was legimitately injured it seemed risky even if none of the attacks put his wrist in the firing line.
G.O.D are Champs Again and Break The Ring in the Process
Yes you read that right, during their match with the Briscoe Brothers in their match for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team titles part of the middle of the ring broke and was sticking up. The Young Lions who watch at ringside were then forced to go underneath the ring and try and fix it, all while the match continued. It was a fascinating sight and to the credit of everyone involved they managed to work through it very smoothly. It didn’t slow down what ended up being a better match that I was expecting.
I’m very vocal about my disinterest in Tonga Loa, but this was probably the best showing he and Tama Tonga have put on as a team. He’s still about as charismatic as a wet blanket but the in ring action was pretty decent. G.O.D won the titles off of Guerilla Warfare, and their celebration with the Young Bucks was interrupted by the Stone Pitbull Tomohiro Ishii, who tried to do a one man beatdown but failed because it was 4 on 1…shock horror. It does more or less confirm my suspicions that Ishii and Hiroki Goto will win the World Tag League and go on to face G.O.D at Wrestle Kingdom, which is a pairing I’ve been wanting to see put into action for some time now.
The Superkick Party Was in Full Flight.
The Young Bucks retained their IWGP Junior Heavyweight Titles in a fun match against Ricochet and David Finlay. We saw 9 superkicks in this match for Matt and Nick Jackson, bringing their total for the night to 11 (mostly through double superkicks mind you). This match won’t win any awards but it was a good show, highlighting the athleticism of all four men and continuing to build Finlay as he progressed from being a Young Lion. The Young Bucks won with More Bang for Your Buck to cap off an electric title defence.
Can we just stop and appreciate how effortless Ricochet makes defying gravity look by the way? You don’t have to be a fan of the style to recognise how incredible his athleticism is. Twice he performed running leaps to the outside, twisting like he was performing in the high jump event, only to land perfectly on his feet. This guy is a true talent.
Extra Time Bullet Club Points:
Nagata and Nakajima’s personal little feud is brilliant, and I can’t wait for it to lead to a match between the two of them. Blue Justice may be old but he can still go, and the chemistry the two have radiates whenever they interact. The NOAH/NJPW 8 man was fine, but these two stood out, and Nakajima is making for a great heel in the role of cocky youngster.
The other 8 man tag match was a lot of fun. Yano is a love him or hate him guy but I feel he brings a lot to the table, and his pestering of Togi Makabe was a lot of fun to watch, even if it lead to him getting beat down after the match. Tension continues to build between Roppongi Vice and Honma’s looking less and less like the lovable underdog and more like a general competent wrestler now, hitting the top rope Kokeshi on Rocky for the win.
So that basically had to be Kota Ibushi as ‘Tiger Mask W’ in the Dark match to promote the new anime right? The Triangle moonsault is his move afterall. Of course it’d make perfect sense for Ibushi to take that role.