I was lucky enough to be in Japan for this year’s Wrestle Kingdom! The experience of seeing my first big wrestling show in Japan was pretty amazing. On top of that, the show was really good too. For the most part, the matches seemed to get progressively better and the main event matches were really fantastic. The Intercontinental and Heavyweight title matches are already contenders for match of the year. I guess technically they already are the best two matches of the year since 2016 just started, but what I’m saying is they set the bar very, very high. If you’re a wrestling fan you should watch this show.
Knowing the history behind some of the matches helps add to the drama, but it’s not entirely necessary to enjoy the show. Still, New Japan World (the NJPW streaming site) is making it easier for English speaking users to sign up for their site. This show is available with English commentary and the site itself is a little more English friendly. It might not have as much content as the WWE Network, but I think a good argument could be made for quality over quantity.
So here is my recap and review of the show. I understand that a lot of people might not have seen the show yet, so I’ve hidden the results of matches. Click on “Show Results” beneath each match listing to see who won, how, and in what time. My match thoughts and other commentary should be spoiler free, though sometimes promos might give an indication of results, so if you’re THAT picky about spoilers just go watch the show first. I’ll still be here when you get back, and then we can talk about what happened. So with that said, here are my thoughts on New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 10!
English Commentary: Kevin Kelly, Matt Striker, Yoshi Tatsu
New Japan Rumble
(18 wrestlers enter at one minute intervals, elimination by pin, submission, disqualification or over the top rope.)
The match went quite a while without anyone being eliminated. Once Mascara Dorada hit the ring things seemed to start to get more serious. That is, until Captain New Japan’s face flashed on the screen before the countdown for the next entrant. Everyone in the crowd had a good laugh about that. So Captain New Japan entered the match and got immediately eliminated by Fujiwara (with an armbar of course). Then, led by Liger, everyone dog-piled on Fujiwara and eliminated him by pinfall.
The ring started to fill back up again, then Saito hit a big second rope senton on Tiger Mask and everyone piled on to pin him. Cheeseburger then attacked Saito, but Saito picked him up for a slam. Liger, who seemed to have a lot of fun messing with Cheeseburger, pushed Saito down so that Cheeseburger was on top. Everyone piled on for the pin, eliminating Saito.
During Kojima’s entrance, Nakanishi pushed Liger over the top rope, then YOSHI-HASHI pushed Nakanishi over the top. Both men were eliminated. A few more men enter the ring. Once Taguchi entered, Dorada hits him with a hip attack (the Funky Weapon) and everyone starts kicking him. Mostly in the butt. Except Cheeseburger, he got a hip attack.
Koshinaka (the first ever IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champ) enters the ring and hip attacks everyone. He and Taguchi team up and there are hip attacks everywhere. Then King Haku enters the match wearing a Bullet Club t-shirt. Haku immediately makes an impact by sending Nagata and Kojima to the floor. Then The Great Kabuki enters the match!
While Kabuki makes his way to the ring, Tenzan gets Haku in the anaconda vice and forces him to submit. Immediately after, Taguchi and YOSHI-HASHI pile on Tenzan to pin him. Kabuki enters the ring and glares at Cheeseburger. Cheeseburger wants nothing to do with him and tries to hide between the ring ropes.
Sakuraba enters the ring and faces off with Kabuki. He kicks Kabuki’s legs, but Kabuki answers with red mist. Kabuki is disqualified. Taguchi takes advantage of Sakuraba and pins him after the mist attack. As the music for the last wrestler plays, YOSHI-HASHI hits a swanton on Cheeseburger and pins him.
Jado is the last wrestler to enter the match and the only one to come in from the stage. Taguchi and Koshinaka double-team Jado (mostly with hip attacks). Taguchi goes for the in, but Koshinaka breaks it up. He hits a flying hip attack, but Taguchi breaks up the pin. Taguchi goes for a flying hip attack and hits Koshinaka. Jado tosses Koshinaka over the ropes to eliminate him.
Taguchi and Jado are the last two in the ring. Taguchi goes on the attack and runs towards Jado, but Jado ducks and pulls the top rope down, sending Taguchi to the floor. Jado wins!
Momoka Ariyasu enters the ring to celebrate with Jado. She cuts a promo of her own, mostly talking about Momoiro Clover Z’s upcoming albums and other stuff coming out this year. She seems a bit flustered, but she also seems genuinely excited. Jado picks up Momoka and poses for photos.
|Entrant #||Wrestler||Elimination Order||Eliminated By|
|1||Jushin Thunder Liger||5||Manabu Nakanishi|
|2||Yoshiaki Fujiwara||2||Jushin Thunder Liger|
|3||Tiger Mask (IV)||3||Hiro Saito|
|7||Mascara Dorada||9||Unknown (happened off camera)|
|8||Captain New Japan||1||Yoshiaki Fujiwara|
|10||Yuji Nagata||7||King Haku|
|11||Satoshi Kojima||8||King Haku|
|12||Hiroyoshi Tenzan||11||Ryusuke Taguchi, YOSHI-HASHI|
|15||King Haku||10||Hiroyoshi Tenzan|
|16||The Great Kabuki||12||Disqualified for using red mist|
|17||Kazushi Sakuraba||13||Ryusuke Taguchi|
|18||Jado w/ Momoka Ariyasu||Winner||N/A|
This was little more than an excuse to parade out a bunch of wrestling legends and have some silly moments, but it was fun. I almost always enjoy a big battle royal, and this was no exception. Being able to say that I saw some true wrestling icons in person is pretty great, and there were definitely some fun moments.
As a wrestling match I can’t say it was great. There wasn’t any drama and no real story to speak of. But that’s not what it was about. The way they presented this speaks volumes as to what the match was intended to be. Entrants making their way to the ring would stay on camera longer than the in-ring action, and this sometimes led to eliminations getting missed. But it didn’t really matter. It was about seeing all these guys in the ring together. For what it was, it delivered.
After the Rumble I went to get a drink and something to eat before the main show started. I could hear stuff going on at the stage but it didn’t sound like anything wrestling related, and I was pretty hungry, so I decided to wait in line for food.
As I got back to my seat I saw Doraemon, an insanely popular manga, TV series, and movie series about a robotic cat named, well, Doraemon. The 36th Doraemon movie is being released this year, so they had people dressed up as characters do a song and dance on the stage. The video behind them had Hiroshi Tanahashi and Togi Makabe doing the dance along with them. I watched it on New Japan World after I got back home. It was cute.
There was a little bit of a break, then the show started. They started off with a video showing all of the matchups on the card. Nine matches, and all but one of them was for a title. After the video ended the first match began.
Four Team Tag Match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Title
Young Bucks (Nick & Matt Jackson) w/ Cody Hall vs Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Baretta) vs Ricochet & Matt Sydal vs reDRagon (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Champs)
This was a very exciting, fast-paced match and was a great way to start the show. All the teams looked very good. The Young Bucks were definitely the bad guys in this one. Cody Hall interfered on their behalf on a few occasions and really got the crowd to boo them. I was pulling for Ricochet and Sydal to win, but The Young Bucks were really the only team I hoped would lose. They’re good, but they push their antics so far that they almost feel like a parody sometimes. Especially some of the reactions from Nick. And the heel tactics of using interference like they did worked on me and the crowd. We wanted them to lose.
I think Ricochet and Sydal probably came out of this looking the best. They has some very great moments and were solid throughout. reDRagon also had a great match and had a particularly great segment where they destroyed people. When I first saw reDRagon I wasn’t a huge fan, but matches like this have changed my mind. Roppongi Vice was good too and they had their moments, but I think the other teams just overshadowed them a little.
Overall a really fun, crazy match with lots of stuff going on for pretty much the entire duration.
NEVER Openweight 6 Man Tag Team Title Match
Yujiro Takahashi w/ Shiori & Tama Tonga & Bad Luck Fale vs Toru Yano & The Briscoe Brothers
This was a good match with a lot of different elements. It started out as a brawl as everyone paired off and starting fighting in and out of the ring. It then settled down a little and became a solid tag match. Mark Briscoe was probably the standout with his speed and some great moves. He was a little chaotic at times which you kind of expect from the Briscoes. Jay was kind of a calming influence (for lack of a better term) because he was a bit more methodical. Toru Yano was kind of comic relief, but it worked for the match.
Yano got isolated for a good portion of the match letting the Bullet Club show what they can do. Tama Tonga stood out for their side. Part of that was because of what he did in the ring, but part of it was also because the commentators talked about how he was really intense about wanting to win the title. He wanted to win for himself though, and it showed a little. The Bullet Club didn’t have great teamwork, not like the Briscoes.
The match might not have been as crazy as the four team match before it, but it was pretty solid and had some good moments.
Ring of Honor World Title Match
Michael Elgin vs Jay Lethal (ROH World Champ) w/ Truth Martini
This match was a bit slower than the previous matches and felt very much like a Michael Elgin match. Elgin showed his impressive strength and dominated most of the match. It felt like Lethal was fighting from behind almost the whole time. Truth Martini also interjected himself into the match on a few occasions. That guy is annoying to me.
The match was good, but with the pace set by the previous matches and the amount of punishment we’ve already seen some guys take, the ending almost felt sudden. On any other show it would have been solid, but the competition at Wrestle Kingdom is pretty stiff. Still, good match. There were some great moves from Elgin that really stood out, and a forearm that looked like it should have knocked Lethal out cold.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match
KUSHIDA w/ Ryusuke Taguchi vs Kenny Omega (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champ) w/ The Young Bucks
KUSHIDA came to the ring with his Back to the Future gimmick (complete with an orange vest, the theme music, and Taguchi dressed as Doc Brown), and Kenny Omega came out to Terminator music. Franchise versus franchise, I’d have to go with Back to the Future. I was pulling for KUSHIDA.
Omega and the Young Bucks, as part of the Bullet Club, used all sorts of dirty tactics. Outside interference, weapons, the works. Some of them didn’t work so well (like Omega’s attempted moonsault with a trash can), and they didn’t really help me get into the match. Once they actually started wrestling though, it got good.
KUSHIDA can sometimes be a little bit of a comic wrestler, but he was all serious in this match. Omega did a good job of coming across as an arrogant champ who might be taking his opponent too lightly. KUSHIDA had a game plan that became more evident as the match went on and it really had a profound effect on the match and how both men wrestled. The buildup got really good, and the ending to this match was very satisfying.
IWGP Tag Team Title Match
Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe vs Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows (IWGP Tag Champs) w/ Amber Gallows
This was a fairly hard-hitting match. Gallows and Anderson looked like the stronger team, dominating the match with good teamwork and some strong double-team moves, but Homna was the clear favorite for the crowd. Honma seemed to spend the most time in the ring for his team and kept looking for his signature move, the headbutt.
Gallows and Anderson brawled a little, but most of the action stayed in the ring. There wasn’t a whole lot of technical wrestling in this match, but the guys put on a pretty good match with Homna being the driving force of the story.
Between 5th and 6th matches they showed a video announcing NJPW’s schedule for most of 2016.
Tetsuya Naito w/ EVIL, Bushi vs Hirooki Goto
As the only match on the main show that wasn’t for a title, it was pretty clear right from the beginning that this was more personal. Goto went after Naito as soon as he hit the ring, but EVIL and Bushi ganged up on Goto. Naito used some dirty tactics and a table to get an unfair advantage to start the match.
Goto was clearly the stronger man, but he was fighting angry. It worked for him most of the time, but it also let Naito take advantage on occasion. Goto had some nice, strong moves, and Naito fought well as an underhanded heel. Once the first part of the match was over and they got into the ring, it was a solid match. There were a couple of good near falls and the ending was nice.
NEVER Openweight Title Match
Katsuyori Shibata vs Tomohiro Ishii (NEVER Openweight Champ)
This was easily the most hard-hitting match of the night. It was essentially two men daring each other to hit harder. It was full of strikes and kicks by both men, but Shibata also brought some really good submission wrestling and transitions to the match.
These two guys really laid into each other. Both of them took a ton of very hard shots. At times they would stand up to them and at other times they would crumble to the mat. It was really well done for the best dramatic effect. Some of the best segments of the match were where both men looked like they were out on their feet but kept going at each other, seemingly on instinct and adrenaline, in a non-stop sequence until both men just couldn’t stand anymore.
This was really a surprise for me. I didn’t really know what to expect going in, but I really enjoyed it quite a lot. It was up there with my favorite matches so far on the show.
Before the next match was a video highlighting the buildup to Styles vs Nakamura.
IWGP Intercontinental Title Match
AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura (IWGP Intercontinental Champ)
Fantastic match. Really, really fantastic. Great exchanges, solid psychology throughout, and a great story over the course of the match. Both men had great strategies, they played off of each other very well, and there were some very exciting transitions. This was called a “Dream Match” and it really had the feeling of something important and special.
The build to the final portions of the match grew steadily, increasing the tension as it went. You could see the punishment both men were taking building in the way they moved and fought. Nakamura is very charismatic and eccentric in how he moves and presents himself, and that definitely stood out, but he also put up a fight that lived up to his name as the “King of Strong Style.” And AJ Styles can fly, but he also showed his power and submission acumen.
This was the match I was most looking forward to on the show, and it delivered. Best match of the night up to this point. Easily.
Before the main event was a video highlighting the long history between Tanahashi and Okada.
IWGP Heavyweight Title Match
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kazuchika Okada (IWGP Heavyweight Champ) w/ Gedo
As good as the Intercontinental Title match was, I think this one was even better. It was over 30 minutes long but it didn’t feel like it was too long. There was a clear and smart psychology to the action, and both men gave everything to put on an extremely exciting and satisfying main event in an already very good show.
The history between Okada and Tanahashi added even more to the match. Striker and Kelly were good about pointing out some of the important aspects happening during the match that were actually callbacks to previous matches and interactions between the two. If you’re not familiar with the history, the commentators put it over enough to give the match an extra layer of significance.
Even if you didn’t know the history, it was still a fantastic match. The tension built gradually and organically over the course of the match. The reactions from the crowd mirror that very well. By the end of the match the crowd is very noisy and you can see people reacting to every move happening in the ring. I liked both guys going into the match, but I have even more respect for them now. Especially Okada.
After the match, Gedo gets on the mic and praises Okada. Okada says that Tanahashi is strong and will fight again. He also said that everyone should keep watching for a new New Japan.
This was a very good show top to bottom. Some matches were much better than others, but there wasn’t a single match that I didn’t like. The last two matches just really took the show to another level.
Being in the crowd was an amazing experience. The feeling from the main event matches was infectious and exhilarating. I wondered if being in the crowd swayed my opinion of the show and if it would be different watching the video, but after watching it a second time I have to say that my opinion didn’t really change much. It was a solid show that should definitely be seen by wrestling fans.
There were a number of matches with interference, but for the most part it was okay. Those matches themselves mostly made up for it, though I could have done with Cody Hall’s shenanigans in the four team match. The show really shined when it allowed the wrestlers to wrestle and the fighters to fight.
Match of the Night
Okada vs Tanahashi
As much as I want to say that Nakamura versus Styles was the best, I think the main event wins the night. I’ll probably rewatch the Intercontinental match more times, but the main event was really the highlight of the show. As it should be.