Show Reviews

New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 14 Day One Review

Daniel McIver reviews day one of NJPW WrestleKingdom 14.

IT’S TIME! IT’S TIME FOR WRESTLE KINGDOM.

But only Night One.

Yes, this year, WK is across two nights so sit back, relax and have a read through of all the happenings at the first night of Wrestle Kingdom 14.

Jushin Thunder Liger, Tatsumi Fujinami, The Great Sasuke and Tiger Mask vs Naoki Sano, Rysuke Taguchi, Shinjiro Otani and Tatsuhito Takiawa

Result: Team Taguchi wins via pinfall

Grade: B

Thoughts: This had no right to be as good as it was. Yes, most of the wrestlers involved within this match were above the age of 45 and yes, they didn’t move with perhaps the same quickness they have done previously but all the emotion and history came together to create something really special.

On what is his second last match in wrestling; Jushin Thunder Liger gathered all his greatest friends and rivals to have one last hurrah for them all before he rides off into the sunset as a legend and an icon. There was a terrifying moment when Naoki Sano hit a suicide dive and appeared to land right on his head which was…not great but still managed to continue with the match and didn’t seem to lose his footing. Giving the win to Taguchi is a great little moment as he is the only other active member of the roster today. A fitting penultimate finale to set up Night Two’s tag match.

Suzuki Gun (Zack Sabre Jr, El Desperado, Minoru Suzuki and Taichi) vs Los Ingobernables De Japon (Shingo Takagi, Sanada, EVIL and Bushi)

Result: Suzuki Gun win via submission

Grade: B

Thoughts: This was all about Zack and SANADA. Of course, fighting on Night Two for Zack’s Rev Pro Heavyweight championship, both men were the centerpieces of the bout for different reasons. Sanada wanted desperately to get his hands on him whilst Zack just dodged around and intentionally kept tagging in and out in order to avoid him.

Suzuki Gun picked up the win that furthered the story heading into the next night’s championship bout as it means technically Sanada is on the back foot. But, as I write this ahead of Night Two, it’s certainly going to be interesting to see if Sanada can topple the British Submission machine.

Chaos (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano and Yoshi-Hashi) vs Bullet Club (KENTA, Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi and Chase Owens)

Result: Team Chaos win via pinfall

Grade: B

Thoughts: Much like the tag match before it; the story was mainly focusing on two men with one on either side. On the CHAOS side, Hirooki Goto and, on the Bullet Club side, KENTA. On Night Two, KENTA will face off against GOTO for the NEVER Openweight Championship with the main story being the former Hideo Itami using Goto’s close friend, Shibata, to get into New Japan before eventually turning on him and joining Bullet Club.

I preferred this match to the previous tag match for one spot and one spot only; Tomohiro Ishii suplexing Bad Luck Fale with absolute ease. The boy is absolutely mental and that one spot was proof enough he should have had a singles match at the show- never mind after the year he’s just had. The match overall was good; all eight involved are at a high level and performed to what was expected. CHAOS winning was the first babyface win of the main show which made sense, considering the DASTARDLY heel wins we had just witnessed.

FinJuice (Juice Robinson and David Finlay) vs Guerillas of Destiny (C)(Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa)- IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match

Result: FinJuice win via pinfall- New Champion Crowned

Grade: B+

Thoughts: Na seriously, how rubbish are G.O.D at Wrestle Kingdom? I honestly believe I’d have a decent chance at getting a result against them…please no-one tell them that. Please.

ANYWAY. Juice and Finlay won and all is right in the world. After finishing off the year with winning the World Tag League; FinJuice took on the current champions and, for most the match, looked to be out of luck. Fale and Tonga absolutely dominated large portions of the game but kept trying to cheat…the fools.

Juice especially looked absolutely incredible during this match and, will now be going onto potentially becoming a double champion in Night Two to face the United States Champion…talking of which.

Jon Moxley vs Lance Archer (c) – Texas Deathmatch- IWGP United States Championship Match

Result: Moxley wins as Archer can’t reach his feet by the count of 10New Champion Crowned

Grade: A-

Thoughts: Jon Moxley has won back the United States Championship and it was an absolutely brilliant match as well. 2019 was the coming-out party for Lance Archer and, if this championship match is anything to go by, he’s continuing that steam train of momentum into the new decade.

The match had some, slight, critics going in as Wrestle Kingdom is often regarded as a place where every match is technically brilliant and, obviously, deathmatches aren’t exactly a intrinsic, technical masterclass. But this shut up anyone who was going to say a bad word about it.

Brutal, vicious, terrifying and creative; Moxley and Archer did what they did best and just absolutely killed each other. The finish was awful in all the best ways when Mox hit a ‘Death Rider’ from the apron to the outside through two tables which just OPENED up Lance’s arm and left him in a pool of his own blood. Juice vs Moxley writes itself with the previous history of 2019 so I cannot wait to see what happens.

Hiromu Takahashi vs Will Ospreay (c) – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match

Result: Takahashi wins via pinfall- New Champion Crowned

Grade: A+

Thoughts: It’s hard to decide whether or not this or the main event was match of the night but, regardless, both will be in the conversation for Match of the Year at the end of 2020. This was, absolutely, perfect. I honestly can’t think of a moment that was wasted or felt slightly off. Will Ospreay has, potentially, been the best wrestler in the world in the past two years and Hiromu Takahashi had the world stage to return in a huge way after horrific, near career-ending injury.

There is one sequence from this match that you will almost definitely have seen; where Will went for the Sasuke special, landed into a German suplex where he landed that, went for a dive, somehow few through the bottom rope, landed and then ACTUALLY hit the Sasuke special. NO-ONE can explain how they did it and, somehow, they just did.

Takahashi winning was a fantastic moment; an incredibly emotional moment almost eighteen months in the making after being injured ensured it was all worth it. This does seem to be a sign that Ospreay is heading up to the Heavyweight division which is just going to be…mad. Seriously; watch this match.

Tetsuya Naito vs Jay White (c) – IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match

Result: Naito wins via pinfall- New Champion Crowned

Grade: A

Thoughts: Right, listen, I love Jay White. I think he’s captivating in a way few wrestlers are, has had one of the best years of any wrestler in 2019 and is genuinely really talented in the ring…whilst also getting MAJOR, legit heat.

And this match I feel told the simplest of stories a wrestling match can go for; a truly detestable heel that everyone hates going up against a stonewall of the company that has been overlooked and underappreciated for years and has the entire fan-base behind him. Many didn’t like the match judging by the Twitter reaction but I thought it was great.

The pace was spot on; especially following the insane match we just saw from the Juniors and what we were going to see in the main event, it made sense to have a slower, more classically paced match with a targeted body part. White immediately attacked Naito’s knee which continued for the entire match.

Naito winning is just…I’m far too excited. I am desperate for Naito to beat *THE CURRENT IWGP CHAMPION* as the story tells itself with more than half a decade of vengeance ready to be unleashed. A great match that put over both men.

Kota Ibushi vs Kazuchika Okada (c) – IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match

Result: Okada retains via pinfall

Grade: A+

Thoughts: What a surprise; Okada vs Ibushi was absolutely amazing and probably going to be MOTY for 2020. What a shock. Right, before we start, go and watch Okada’s entrance. It was absolutely amazing- he glowed in the bloody dark lads!

But to the match. After a reasonably slow start, which may have come as a surprise to many, it picked up massively and just never stopped from there. In maintaining his gimmick, Ibushi just kept bumping on his neck (at one point, just doing it himself without Okada even being involved) and it was terrifying. Seriously Kota, stop it. Please. Despite what you, clearly, think- you do need a neck.

Both men kicked out of multiple finishers and looked like superhuman gods but Kota cost him with a reference to his past. After successfully hitting multiple moves but STILL being unable to put The Rainmaker away, he hit Kenny Omega’s V-Trigger and went for his finisher but took half a second too long which allowed Okada to pick up the three points and retain his championship.

Whilst Ibushi will definitely have his time, Naito vs Okada is absolutely the right decision. As previously mentioned, the history these two have with each other, there were no real other alternatives to one man being the first ‘Double Champ’ in New Japan history (apart from maybe Tanahashi). Their staredown at the end of the show made me, somehow, even more excited to see Night Two. It’s going to be incredible.

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