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Wrestle Kingdom 11

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Thinking about it, I think that the first and third categories are two sides of the same coin. To go back to the excerpt I posted earlier, they're both about aesthetic enjoyment, rather than emotional. They're just two common approaches to appreciating the aesthetics of pro wrestling; we might say ideologies. It's possible to imagine other approaches, too, or ones that combine aspects of each.

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I'm not really with Joe's post. I get what he's saying. I think context is important to understand what you're seeing.

 

At the end of the day though it comes down to why are you writing reviews? Are you trying to be as useful to as many people as possible? Or are you trying to judge the match as good or not? Are you trying to understand what makes it tick? Is it about getting hits? Is it about knocking down a match or building it up? Is it down to comparing it against every other match you've seen? Are you looking for some sort of universal truth and rating? Are you trying to right some previous imbalance that you see in how wrestling has been previously reviewed. Are you just trying to make sense of your own feelings? Are you trying to engage with other people on your criticisms and counter theirs if you feel differently?

 

People may value different things. Depending on why you're reviewing a match that may or may not matter in how you write your review. Frankly, it may make you more hardline in one area or another. I often see that people who are hardline on your #1 understand #3 far, far better than those who are hardline on #3 understand #1. Frankly, to me, #1 is more cerebral and takes more thought and effort while #3 is more emotional and involves more letting go and getting swept up.Analyzing vs Experiencing. I'm wired to value categorization, pattern-seeking, and attention to detail far more. One seems "smarter" than the other to me (which in turn makes the other "dumber" by nature). I'm sure others find what I come up either as patently ridiculous because I'm overthinking it and wrestling is just a "dumb form of disposable entertainment" or they find mys stuf downright soulless.

 

What I'm trying to say is that no, you don't have to accept everyone's values as being worth the same. Just try to at least be aware of them and try to understand them the best you can, even if you're disregarding them for reasons that you're open about. We need all sorts of reviews out there.

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What I'm trying to say is that no, you don't have to accept everyone's values as being worth the same. Just try to at least be aware of them and try to understand them the best you can, even if you're disregarding them for reasons that you're open about. We need all sorts of reviews out there.

 

I agree with this 100%, and it was actually exactly what I was trying to get at with the long post.

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I agree with much of Matt's post, too. I praised Joe's post mostly for its accurate breakdown of the different ways people enjoy wrestling. I'm not entirely sure I'm down with the "all ways of appreciating are created equal" idea. This is absolutely not saying that people who enjoy wrestling in a certain way are less intelligent or less deserving of respect, of course. But the tepid "well, this is my opinion and that's your opinion and they're both great!" attitude I see from some does grate on me. If you're passionate about this stuff, and about the beauty in it, and you see the way someone else approaches the same material as reducing it to something ugly, simplistic, and/or base, shouldn't you have a little more fire about it?

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Are there any heavyweights on excursion right now? With Tanahashi officially out of the top of the cards, Shibata and Goto never getting there, the square of Omega/Naito/Okada/Suzuki can only last for so long, especially with Gedo's love of rematches (particularly for Okada). Seems like a good time for someone to return and make a big statement.

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When it comes to breaking down matches...

 

For me, there's usually a lot of outside factors too. Did I watch the show in person, or on TV? Did I watch it live, or after the fact? Did I go into the match ignorant, or had I already read what people were saying about it? Did I watch it alone, or did I have company over? Was it a match in a vacuum, or as part of an entire event I watched? Was it from years ago, or recent?

 

Even shit like watching a match when I'm hungry can affect how I view it sometimes. I can be more cranky and thus jaded.

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Are there any heavyweights on excursion right now? With Tanahashi officially out of the top of the cards, Shibata and Goto never getting there, the square of Omega/Naito/Okada/Suzuki can only last for so long, especially with Gedo's love of rematches (particularly for Okada). Seems like a good time for someone to return and make a big statement.

 

I don't think Tanahashi is out of the top of the cards, he's just probably done beating other top guys. He's still a draw and will still be used several times per year to headline. Tanahashi had 8 singles main events last year, trailing only Naito (12), and Okada (9).

 

Shibata will absolutely be in the main event mix sooner than later. The seeds have been planted. He was elevated last year with his feud and subsequent symbolic acceptance from the third gen guys, and headlined 6 shows as a singles wrestler overall (doubling his total since 2012) with the NEVER title being built around him. I'd be surprised if he isn't moved up to the IC level (which means bigger main events), win the G1, or both. You mention Gedo's love of rematches, but Okada & Shibata have been kept apart for 4 or 5 years. That isn't an accident, just like Okada never facing Omega wasn't.

 

Jay White is away and will likely be a heavyweight. The other big heavyweight prospects are Oka (who just made his debut on 1/3 and who is a personal pet project of Kidani & Nagata, so he will get pushed no matter what), Hiku'lio (another son of Haku who everybody behind the scenes thinks will be a mega star, as in potential WWE headliner level mega star, at about 6'8" with what is said to be "special" charisma), and Katsuya Kitamaru, a muscle head with a great look who also has yet to debut (but who shot an angle with Billy Gunn, of all people, on 1/5). Oka, Hiku'lio, and Kitamura have a combined one match between them, so they are a ways off. I expect White to be pushed, but not right to the top right away, and might end up in WWE before then.

 

On the roster, SANADA is the guy to watch. He has the right look, works the right style, and they planted the seeds already for Tanahashi to put him over at some point. He'll be pushed to the top.

 

This year will be about adding Shibata to the Okada/Naito/Omega/Tanahashi mix, while mixing in Suzuki/Goto. 2018 and beyond will be about SANADA, Oka, and maybe one or two of the others mentioned who wind up panning out.

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Sanada is dope. Forgot about him. I don't think Shibata is ever getting to the main events, though. He's been back for 4 years and is still being punished for leaving in 2004.

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Sanada is dope. Forgot about him. I don't think Shibata is ever getting to the main events, though. He's been back for 4 years and is still being punished for leaving in 2004.

 

If you notice, his push took off as soon as he finally signed his contract.

 

Which reminds me. Same applies to SANADA. It's pretty clear to me that they like him as a future top guy, but it isn't happening until he signs a deal, which if he has already, I missed it. He's technically freelance, and whatever slim chance you had to be pushed as a true top guy as a freelancer ended last 1/4 with the raid.

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He hasn't been on contract for the past 4 years?

 

Shibata? Nope. He wasn't officially under contract until this past February, I believe (may have been March). He was working as a freelancer, even though he never worked anywhere else. This was a big reason he was hitting a glass ceiling.

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Only watched Omega vs Okada (obvious reasons). I thought it was good, really good, but not epic. I like Omega. I think his biggest strength his his facial expressions, selling in nuanced moments and his ability to always be on between moves. He is always walking and moving with purpose and meaning. I loved his glassy eyed selling in places where I have expected the camera to be catching him looking around to get a feel for the next move or something (very common now). I generally like Okada fine and thought he was doing his Okada thing as well as ever. The match was interesting in parts, certainly provided a lot of "oh shit" moments and provided some drama throughout.

 

I thought they excelled in the use of space, the pacing of the match, the slow build to get the crowd in (they didn't seem dead to me for a tokyo dome crowd, but I could be wrong). Both men are physically gifted. Omega is so deceptively strong and he used that to create a lot of those moments that would just be impossible with most other wrestlers. Okada's ace face is on point. He knows when to turn the corner in really subtle ways to show the moment in the match where things get worse than he expected or he gets frustrated. He brings the base, the foundation to a match like this now and Omege did a great job of adding the details with his charisma, intensity, and his unique physical skillset.

 

I actually liked the first part of the match better than the homestretch in a way. I enjoyed how they were sort of in a human game of chess, how they were blocking each other's momentum. They played the balance between feeling each other out and their early strategies for offense well. What I didn't like was that the match never really turned on an emotional level. I didn't feel hate and urgency in it. That might be just me and watching on my computer not live. I like my wrestling to feel urgent and hate filled, to at least elevate to that. This kind of stayed in the professional wheelhouse like much of the NJPW main events I have seen tend to do. It is also a criticism that I have seen waged against the Steamboat/flair 89 matches for the nwa title vs their earlier matches, but I still think they built in some passion, desperation, and hate better than this.

 

That lack of urgency and hate killed the home stretch for me. It was incredibly impressive from a physical standpoint and I understand the logic of it, but it just wasn't my favorite thing. It is kind of hypocritical, because I still love me some 90s All Japan, but this felt like overkill. I prefer subtle reversals and guys staying out of finishers than 100 finisher kickouts, but the reversals here were almost too fast and too frequent that none of them got to sink in with any meaning for me. It was a spectacular physical show that didn't feel like much more to me.

 

In all, I liked a lot more about it than I disliked. It was impressive and probably A LOT better live. For reference, I am probably giving it ****1/4 or ****1/2. It is one I probably wont watch again for a long time, but I will be interested in revisiting. I can see myself bumping it up or down with some time.

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The crowd talking point is a bit weird, I can think of a lot of highly rated matches during which the crowd were sitting on their hands a bit for portions.

 

What happened to the idea of bringing the crowd up and down?

Also NJPW fans are conditioned to know when to react in main events. To me that is to their credit in this match, because the rhythm of this main event was completely flipped on it's head, which is why the crowd was going so mental for what turned out to be an incredibly long closing stretch.

 

I think it's a weird talking point too, because they actually did a great job manipulating the crowd. It feels like a nit pick to me.

It's only worth mentioning in the context of people calling it maybe the best match ever and in the context of the show. As an isolated point it's kind of a shoulder shrugger, but when you compare it to the reactions in the opening moments of the match that immediately proceeded it (which had similar pacing) there is a noticeable difference. I'll grant that there could be a variety of reasons for that, and to me it's not really a serous criticism of the match. I would deduct exactly zero stars or whatever for it. But when people talk about the opening minutes and how invested they were - and in many cases act confused or annoyed that others say they weren't - it's worth noting that the live crowd was pretty clearly "down" as well.

 

I think your other post is a relatively good breakdown, and is in line with some of the things I've been saying the last few days myself. I do cringe a bit at being categorized as primarily a 1 in this case, but that might have to do with my comments on Twitter in real time v my comments here, and the fact that I don't know if I like the idea of 1 as the bastion of "intellectual" critique. There is a sense in which 2 feels like it could be labeled "narrative building/narrative reading" which is as post-modern intellectual as you get.

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If Shibata doesn't win the G1 this year, I'd be shocked. Well, not really, but I do think he'll get an IWGP Heavyweight title shot this year for sure. He's over with the fans, he's won back the respect of the NJ dads, I think his "punishment" was his NEVER title reign last year and served as his proving grounds.

 

Jay White's a good call when he comes back, I think he'll get a significant push. Sanada definitely fits the ace mold and I could see them milking a Naito/Sanada feud at some point.

 

Not sure what's happening with Kyle O'Reilly but if he stays with NJ, I'd expect him to be involved with the midcard/upper midcard heavyweights.

 

Komatsu/Tanaka will likely stay with the juniors when they come back from excursion although I could see Kanemitsu going heavyweight depending on if he can get healthy.

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The crowd talking point is a bit weird, I can think of a lot of highly rated matches during which the crowd were sitting on their hands a bit for portions.

 

What happened to the idea of bringing the crowd up and down?

Also NJPW fans are conditioned to know when to react in main events. To me that is to their credit in this match, because the rhythm of this main event was completely flipped on it's head, which is why the crowd was going so mental for what turned out to be an incredibly long closing stretch.

 

I think it's a weird talking point too, because they actually did a great job manipulating the crowd. It feels like a nit pick to me.

It's only worth mentioning in the context of people calling it maybe the best match ever and in the context of the show. As an isolated point it's kind of a shoulder shrugger, but when you compare it to the reactions in the opening moments of the match that immediately proceeded it (which had similar pacing) there is a noticeable difference. I'll grant that there could be a variety of reasons for that, and to me it's not really a serous criticism of the match. I would deduct exactly zero stars or whatever for it. But when people talk about the opening minutes and how invested they were - and in many cases act confused or annoyed that others say they weren't - it's worth noting that the live crowd was pretty clearly "down" as well.

 

I think your other post is a relatively good breakdown, and is in line with some of the things I've been saying the last few days myself. I do cringe a bit at being categorized as primarily a 1 in this case, but that might have to do with my comments on Twitter in real time v my comments here, and the fact that I don't know if I like the idea of 1 as the bastion of "intellectual" critique. There is a sense in which 2 feels like it could be labeled "narrative building/narrative reading" which is as post-modern intellectual as you get.

 

 

Yeah, I was really only going off of your real time comments on Twitter, and I used you as my example because you've admitted to being disconnected to NJPW this year, but unlike Phil I know you have been very well versed in it recently so you weren't coming in as blind as (I assume) he was. I haven't read this entire thread.

 

I don't think the "First 15" as they have become known were particularly compelling, especially in real time. There was rudimentary back work by Omega, which he continued pretty much through the entire match as a wear down for the OWE he was never able to hit, but other than that I think the primary purpose it served was to set up the final 15 to look even more frenetic than it was. Who knows if that was even intentional, but that's how it ended up playing out, at least to me.

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I know people have this idea that the NEVER is a meaningless/extraneous title and all of that, but it simply isn't true when you study the booking. The NEVER is used to draw third string houses. Not to repeat myself, but Shibata saw more singles mains this year than he ever has before previously combined, and that's because the NEVER was built around him.

 

NEVER has either been booked as the first steps of an elevation, or been centered on people like Makabe who are popular secondary level draws. NEVER title bouts are used to headline shows like Kizuna Road or Road To house shows in larger than normal buildings (like Shibata vs Kojima this year in Aichi, which drew 4000, which is big for a house show). It's the title they use to headline smaller buildings when they don't want to burn a bigger match, but still need to sell a decent amount of tickets, like Shibata vs EVIL in Singapore.

 

It's not a throwaway belt, and it definitely isn't a punishment.

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To Dylan's point about the crowd being a bit down during the open of the match, I don't disagree but also think there's something to be said for coming right after the Tanahashi/Naito finish as well knowing a long match was ahead. Not sure its unreasonable to think everyone in the Dome was pacing themselves to an extent.

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What's most interesting to me about this show in terms of critical discussion is the way the undercard is viewed. I think that's where the investment question really rears its head. Watching in real time with Exposer our take was that the undercard was easy enough to watch, but nothing on it was as good as the top couple of matches from WWE tv over the week, and some of the stuff was pretty clusterfuckish. It just felt like a bunch of decent matches back-to-back, most of which were thrown together to give guys a pay day. There is nothing wrong with that, and the WWE does it too, but I was mystified to see people raving about virtually every match on the undercard as 3 1/2 star level match. To me that was a bigger disconnect than the main events, all of which I enjoyed, and all of which I assumed would be widely praised by NJPW fans even before the show started.

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To Dylan's point about the crowd being a bit down during the open of the match, I don't disagree but also think there's something to be said for coming right after the Tanahashi/Naito finish as well knowing a long match was ahead. Not sure its unreasonable to think everyone in the Dome was pacing themselves to an extent.

 

Possibly, though Naito v. Tanahashi had no trouble going on after Goto v. Shibata which was a dramatic bombfest.

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If Shibata doesn't win the G1 this year, I'd be shocked. Well, not really, but I do think he'll get an IWGP Heavyweight title shot this year for sure. He's over with the fans, he's won back the respect of the NJ dads, I think his "punishment" was his NEVER title reign last year and served as his proving grounds.

 

Jay White's a good call when he comes back, I think he'll get a significant push. Sanada definitely fits the ace mold and I could see them milking a Naito/Sanada feud at some point.

 

Not sure what's happening with Kyle O'Reilly but if he stays with NJ, I'd expect him to be involved with the midcard/upper midcard heavyweights.

 

Komatsu/Tanaka will likely stay with the juniors when they come back from excursion although I could see Kanemitsu going heavyweight depending on if he can get healthy.

 

Yikes, I hope not. I can't help but laugh at him trying to have those bad ass vibes like Shibata, but coming off like a little kid. Always looks like he's going to cry, and can't help but let his Davey Richard roots and Three Stooges selling shine through. Even in a match based on arm work, he managed to work in his cartoony wobbly legged selling at WK.

 

Jay White was pretty impressive from what I saw of him. I like El Hijo de Finlay as well, but man that dude has such a horrible look. Those new tights make it even worse.

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What's most interesting to me about this show in terms of critical discussion is the way the undercard is viewed. I think that's where the investment question really rears its head. Watching in real time with Exposer our take was that the undercard was easy enough to watch, but nothing on it was as good as the top couple of matches from WWE tv over the week, and some of the stuff was pretty clusterfuckish. It just felt like a bunch of decent matches back-to-back, most of which were thrown together to give guys a pay day. There is nothing wrong with that, and the WWE does it too, but I was mystified to see people raving about virtually every match on the undercard as 3 1/2 star level match. To me that was a bigger disconnect than the main events, all of which I enjoyed, and all of which I assumed would be widely praised by NJPW fans even before the show started.

 

Completely agree. The Bucks/RPG Vice match is the obvious example. Even the English commentators missed that it was basically a payoff to the months long Rocky Romero redemption story.

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Can anyone remember what the crowd were like for the first ten minutes of Bock vs Hennig?

 

I mean is this the same board I see people routinely rag on Ric Flair for going to some signature spots early in matches to pop the crowd? So ... he was right to all along because the crowd being constantly hot is what matters?

 

I don't get the crowd point here, honestly, I don't. I can remember arguments from people saying that the crowd doesn't matter, that sometimes the match is better than the crowd or whatever.

 

I did not think Omega vs Okada was even close to being a classic like I said, but the crowd was super stoked for all the high spots and quieter for the bits in between, and I don't get the issue with that.

 

Isn't there an argument to say that after the last three matches the crowd even needed a bit of down time as others have said?

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What's most interesting to me about this show in terms of critical discussion is the way the undercard is viewed. I think that's where the investment question really rears its head. Watching in real time with Exposer our take was that the undercard was easy enough to watch, but nothing on it was as good as the top couple of matches from WWE tv over the week, and some of the stuff was pretty clusterfuckish. It just felt like a bunch of decent matches back-to-back, most of which were thrown together to give guys a pay day. There is nothing wrong with that, and the WWE does it too, but I was mystified to see people raving about virtually every match on the undercard as 3 1/2 star level match. To me that was a bigger disconnect than the main events, all of which I enjoyed, and all of which I assumed would be widely praised by NJPW fans even before the show started.

 

I'm happy to rave about the last 3 matches, but very much on board with you with respect to the undercard. Nothing there was bad, but like you said there are routinely better WWE TV matches. The fact that Satoshi Kojima' sschtick popped the crowd more than anything else on the undercard says it all. Plenty of other things to enjoy there, especially Roppong Vice, Ishii and even the return of Toru Yano, who I personally dig and never overstays his welcome in any match. But nothing at all approached a blow away match.

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Can anyone remember what the crowd were like for the first ten minutes of Bock vs Hennig?

 

I mean is this the same board I see people routinely rag on Ric Flair for going to some signature spots early in matches to pop the crowd? So ... he was right to all along because the crowd being constantly hot is what matters?

 

I don't get the crowd point here, honestly, I don't. I can remember arguments from people saying that the crowd doesn't matter, that sometimes the match is better than the crowd or whatever.

 

I did not think Omega vs Okada was even close to being a classic like I said, but the crowd was super stoked for all the high spots and quieter for the bits in between, and I don't get the issue with that.

 

Isn't there an argument to say that after the last three matches the crowd even needed a bit of down time as others have said?

 

I think there's always more to take away from a crowd down the stretch and for a finish than the beginning.

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