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Wrestle Kingdom 11

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Some people are calling the main event *****+ and others are calling it ***1/2-ish. I'm somewhere in the middle--on Twitter it was pointed out that it would live or die by its closing stretch and I think even the hardliners would have to agree that it lived. Still, the first 15 minutes--up until Okada ate the big dropkick or Omega went through the table--were mostly filler with work that was good and workmanlike but not overly interesting. It would fall around ****1/2 for me, again by virtue of the finish. Still think Tanahashi vs. Naito gets MOTN honors at around the same star rating.

 

All in all, I pulled an unplanned all-nighter to watch this and don't regret the decision, so it's an easy thumbs-up show with mostly decent matches, some really good matches, and nothing particularly bad. I say this as someone who's mostly entirely indifferent to modern-day NJPW.

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The main event is on par with being one of the more polarizing matches of all time based on initial twitter reaction. As someone that doesn't mind long matches and epics of the storytelling, the 47 minute run time is not a net negative for me. I also for the record ranked Omega vs. Naito from the G-1 at ***** and had an emotional connection with that.

 

I preface all of that by saying that I am really perplexed with the heaps and heaps of praise this match is receiving. Make no mistake, everything from the diving moonsault onward was pretty fantastic. Kenny Omega craves being the best wrestler in the world and no risk is too insane for him to take to accomplish that goal. With Okada ultimately winning, it was effective to save things for later like the One Winged Angel since this should be a match that people will go back to time and time again. However, all of that doesn't negate the fact that the first 15-20 minutes of this match were nothing. You didn't get much in the way of focused limb work or the telling of a negative of the risk taker vs. the controlled ace in Okada. The table teasing was nicely done but the last image before this match was Okada being viciously put through a table by the heel faction Bullet Club, why is he starting the match out as any other IWGP defense with a feeling out process? Something felt amiss and it really took Kenny almost literally breaking his neck for me to become invested in the final moments at all. Leading into the show, most seemed to be in agreement that an Omega win was the right move. I again didn't see anything from Okada throughout this match that led me to believe he should have won so that makes the end result questionable as well. He showed some reserve but also was inconsistent in his emotions going for the table early on, hitting the crossbody but then weathering the onslaught of Omega in the final stages.

 

I talked about the issues I had with Tanahashi vs. Okada from the G-1 and why I thought it was insane that it received ***** when things like the wrong leg was worked over for portions of the match. This match is in that same lineage. What was brought to the table here that was so extreme that it aspired the apex of wrestling as a match overall? As we have seen in the puro vs. lucha debate, there is a great divide and I have seen ratings for Lupus vs. Trauma in the **** that I respect even though I disagree with them. That is where I stand on this particular match. The opening was too inconsequential that the epic final half couldn't totally forgive it.

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I'm avoiding everything with potential spoilers online all day (including any prior posts in this thread!) and firing up as soon as I get home tonight. Love kicking off a wrestling year with one of the year's biggest shows.

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As far as the other show is concerned, I think Naito vs. Tanahashi was fantastic. A Tanahashi performance where he showed agression, focused limb work mixed in with character development like Naito spitting to confirm he is a prick, and a final stretch with enough selling to appease me as well as the right amount of big moves and kickouts/counters that happened in a logical way. I can see this being my New Japan MOTY to close out 2017 and that wouldn't be embarrassing at all. ****1/2

 

Shibata vs. Goto was a clubhouse leader for divisive opinions until the main event. It had some nonsense like Shibata sitting down wanting to be punted and pop ups from back suplexes but it also had a more hate feel and some sense of momentum swings than some of the other NEVER matches that are overhyped IMO like Ishii vs. Shibata from last year. Shibata seems poised to start his acceleration up the card now that he is free of the NEVER title. ***3/4

 

Hiromu vs. KUSHIDA had some sloppy moments but really worked as a narrative and I think the pace was presented how the main event should had went. Hiromu is a crazy man and therefore takes some wicked chances. With the sloppiness, they looked rough at points but that did enhance the out of control feel in a certain way. KUSHIDA is able to work over the arm in painful fashion and that allows him to have a fighting chance and also neutralize Hiromu. Final again showed some good restraint with Hiromu winning on a flash big move and gaining the IWGP Jr Title. ****1/4

 

The rest of the show was fine. I felt nothing really clicked until the final stages and there isn't that transcendent ***** match like Funk vs. Flair from GAB 89 for me to put the show in the all timer category. Still an easy thumbs up for New Japans biggest show of the year and well worth a watch.

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I stayed up and watched the show live with Exposer. It was the first time he's ever done that and was pretty cool watching with him.

 

My big takeaway is that it was a good show, but I can't call it great and couldn't even if I was higher on the top four matches than I am (more on that later). Going to so many live shows in the last few years has really changed the way I look at shows. In the past I would have been way more forgiving of an undercard that was largely just there, but having seen so many shows live that were good top to bottom I just can't do it anymore. i didn't hate anything on the NJPW show, but having watched Battlecade in full earlier in the day it didn't compare in terms of matches feeling like they served a purpose, delivering on their potential, and being well placed on the card.

 

To me the biggest strength of the show was the booking. Yes there were a lot of title switches but they worked to raise doubt about every title match on the show which gave every new match an added touch of drama. On top of that with the exception of the main event, I think the right guy/people won in every match. And I don't think Okada was a terrible choice to retain all things considered so that feels like a minor misstep at worst.

 

As for the matches...the undercard as I said was largely there. I am honestly mystified at people giving 3 1/2-4 stars to three or four matches underneath the junior title match, but nothing was awful. Juice Robinson deserves a ton of credit for working hard to make Cody look passable, Kojima/Finlay/Ricochet were very explosive in their match, and the tag title match had a fun stretch run. But nothing prior to the Kushida match was in the same league as last nights Smackdown (to be fair Smackdown was a very strong show).

 

The top four matches will be pointed to as all timers by New Japan hardcores, and in truth if I was more invested in NJPW top guys I might have been higher on them. That said I thought all four of them were both effective and good in their own ways.

 

Kushida v. Takahashi worked because it was a match about body part psych and the reckless lunacy of Takahashi. It would not have worked if it wasn't a combination of those two things, and it's a rare case where the sloppiness added to the match. The match got over big and the title switch felt huge.

 

Goto v. Shibata was exactly what you'd expect. It was very over and i thought Goto wining did a lot to redeem him which is important for NJPW. It was worked in a style that I don't love, but was legitimately dramatic, and not as excessive as that style can be at it's worst.

 

Naito v. Tanahashi was great, though it didn't reach the level of a classic to my eyes. I admit this may be a case where my lack of investment clouds my judgment. The match was slowly built, but logically built and while the leg work that was the focus of the match didn't play into the finish per se, the selling was fairly consistent from both guys throughout. I thought Naito especially did a great job with it at times and the finish felt huge. Naito looks to be going full babyface and this had the feel of AJ v. Cena from Summerslam, without the great near fall, but also without the wild excess.

 

Omega v. Okada was a brilliant single man performance by Omega. Keep in mind I strongly dislike Omega. I will grant that I've liked a lot of his matches over the last two years but he's a guy I've never been able to like as a personality and I always dread watching his matches regardless of his track record (which has not always been good). In the first half of the match Omega's execution was good. In the second half he carried the match with his bumping, facial expressions, timing, and snap/fire. Okada on the other hand came across as a guy who was just there and had little of note to contribute. I came away thinking Omega could have had the exact same match with Cody Rhodes, excepting the fact that Okada is far more over in NJPW. I also agree with Chad's broader comments on the match. It was WAY too long, with nearly half of the match being unnecessary filler. I could have lived with it if they had gone broadway (which I actually convinced myself they were doing about 40 minutes in), but a match with 20 minutes of completely egregious filler that goes nowhere at all is not something I can overlook. They were not building to spots. The were not working momentum swings or a story of one ups manship. They weren't working body parts. They were literally just filling time because hey it's an NJPW Dome main event and it's supposed to be long! As a result the crowd really was not with them until the closing stretch, which featured some things that I'll never really love, but was still a tremendous singular performance by Omega as noted earlier. In a way too good as in the end it felt wrong for Okada to get the duke on such a total coast job.

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Omega’s performance (as it often tends to be) was too “look at me and what I can do!” for my tastes. It hit me as being Shawn Michaels like with the table spots, big flying spot, ridiculous match length, major bumps, and gratuitous near falls that came across as Omega showing off what he can do rather than working to put together a cohesive match that served a greater purpose other than Omega being able to show off. A lot of what he did was impressive. Some of it did work on a level other than making Omega look impressive. A lot of it didn’t, however. The table stuff especially felt out of place and merely an excuse for Omega to take a big bump. The ending stretch was way too long and way too over the top for me. It makes Tanahashi and Okada’s ending sequences look downright simple by comparison.

 

I am an Okada fan but agree this wasn’t his greatest match. I don’t know if that was because he was forced into working closer to Omega’s style or what but it really doesn’t matter.

 

Like everyone else, Tanahashi/Naito was my favorite match followed by the junior title match. On first watch, I didn’t enjoy anything on this show as much as I enjoyed Tanahashi/Okada from last year’s card.

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Really enjoyed the show overall, really glad I took the morning off work.


Hiromu/KUSHIDA (****1/4)


Shibata/Goto (**** 1/2)


Tanahashi/Naito (****3/4)


Okada/Omega (****1/4)


RE Omega vs. Okada. Like Dylan, I felt the match went about 20 minutes long for what was in it. Was still a great match, but simply wasn't for me. People calling it GOAT is a stretch as well, especially when you had a lot of filler at the start of it.

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Agree with the criticisms of the main event. There's just something about Omega that I dislike. I'm not entirely certain that I can put my finger on it. He has like this goofiness to his facial expressions and his movements sometimes that takes me out of the match. I also agree with the Shawn Michaels-esque criticisms of him. Everything feels like a 'performance' rather than a match or a fight or a struggle. In saying that, I thought the finishing stretch of the match was very strong. I disliked how Omega seemed to blow off the fact that he was hit with three Rainmakers without much concern but I guess that's just the NJPW style so there's nothing that can be done. Given that the previous match was quite methodical and went 25 minutes, this could have done with more intensity out of the gate and being nonstop action for 20 minutes rather than stretching out for as long as it did. The match meandered for half of it's run time and then had a strong New Japan-style finishing stretch for the second half. I feel like that formula is wearing thin with me though and I'd really appreciate some deviation from it when appropriate. This would have been one of those times. As for the finish, I felt it was slightly anti-climatic but only because I was expecting Omega to win and it never came, but it's smart that they protected his finish.

 

The only other match I watched was the Naito vs Tanahashi semi main. I felt this was far stronger. Tanahashi for me is a superior ace babyface than Okada and Naito's heel mannerisms and shtick are far more entertaining than Omega's. The match had intensity and a sense of rivalry and at times even hatred that the main lacked. The limb work was good from both men and I liked the touches of Tanahashi breaking the babyface code of honour. To me, the crowd seemed more invested in the entirety of this match and followed the story throughout rather than peaking for the climax. Very strong match and the superior of the top two.

 

I watched the main event first because it happened to be starting by the time I turning on to watch. Then I caught the Naito match in a spare half hour afterwards. That's why my comments are pretty much a comparison between the two. Perhaps that's an unfair way to review them seeing that I took them out of order and had seen a lot of the critiques of the main before I saw the semi main, so I had a lot of those in my head while I watched. However, I stand by my general thoughts. As someone who doesn't follow New Japan religiously, it seems strange to me that Naito is in the secondary heel position while Omega gets the top push because I think he's a far superior character based on what I've seen. Is there a particular reason for this line of booking because it seemed to me around mid-way through 2016 that Okada vs Naito was a nailed on main event for WK11.

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Okada/Omega felt like a landmark moment in "more is more" wrestling to me. "If one finisher counter sequence is good, why not 10?" Same goes for big spots, huge near falls, length etc. A top rope dragon suplex is hit and forgotten about like 30 seconds later. I don't know that I can really rate it but to say it was a monument to excess that offended many of my ideas about what pro wrestling should be. Which in some sense makes it a success, I suppose.

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I have not finished Kenny Omega Vs. Okada yet but I did a write-up for Tanahashi/Naito:

 

=====

 

Intercontinenal Championship: Tetsuya Naito© Vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi - NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 11 (January 4, 2017) at the Tokyo Dome in Bunkyo, Japan
I have already said a lot of this on Twitter, where I was going insane like a lunatic after the match but Tanahashi/Naito was freaking incredible & I loved it. Plus, I don't have a lot of Twitter followers & I wanted to be able to express myself with more characters, so I'm going to write it out here.
First of all, let me get it out there at the forefront: after thinking about it some more, after my initial first impressions wore off, I'm still giving the match a perfect ★★★★★ rating. Which I have not given a match that rating in a very long time. I don't even remember what the last match match I scored that highly was. I know that I liked The Revival Vs. #DIY at NXT Takeover a lot but I didn't think it was a 5-star affair. Mostly because 2-out-of-3 falls matches by the definition of the gimmick, don't have as much emotional involvement until the final fall because you know you have to get to a 1-1 tie first. Nevertheless, it was still a great match.
Naito/Tanahashi to me is just everything that I love about professional wrestling. Right from the opening, even before the bell. The entrances & entrance attire were great, the ring attire was great. Naito's pre-match shenanigans were great. Throwing the belt, fucking with the ring announcer, giving the dab to the commentator. The body of the match was incredible. Naito playing the heel, Tanahashi taking no shit early by not taking a clean break with the gut punches & pulling the hair & showing Naito that he was willing to get down & dirty too. The ring apron Sling Blade was an awesome looking spot that Naito took a great bump on. The High-Fly Flow Crossbody to the outside of the ring, again, was an amazing spot & certainly a visual spectacle. I loved both the German Suplex from Naito & the Dragon Suplex from Tanahashi. I bought into the near falls & at one time screamed "shit!" with a smiled & a head shake at the television after Tanahashi kicked out because I definitely thought it was over.
The match was mostly built around BOTH wrestlers working the leg, which I can't really recall seeing too many times before. I'm sure I have seen it before but I'm struggling to remember. I know that Dusty & Flair both did Figure-Four Leglocks but I've not watched that match in so long I don't remember the legwork from them. This match, they took something that I usually dislike about modern Puro, the dueling no-selling strikes in mid-match & added something new to it which made it more fun to me. Instead of just forearms or headbutts to the face, they started kicking each other in the knee. Something little but it added so much. Excluding AJ Styles because he does his off of a Springboard, which to me makes it an entirely different move altogether, Naito has the best Flying Forearm that I have ever seen. Even better than Tito Santana. I loved the Naito's running, jumping roll-up into a Kneebar, that Tanahashi not only fought through but turned into a High-Angle Texas Cloverleaf. What a spot! Plus, when Naito managed to get his knees up on the High-Fly Flow, it looked like death. Naito has a great finisher. Post-match, Naito kept up the heel character work, throwing the belt, acting non-chalant, dabbing Tanahashi's chest & taunting over his fallen body. Just really great professional wrestling from two really good if not great professional wrestlers.
Naito might be my favorite wrestler in the world right now. The feeling that I had when the match was over was euphoric. It took me at least ten minutes to comeback down from the natural high that the match gave me. I have not had that much fun or felt that good after watching wrestling in a long time, if ever. It made me feel proud to be a fan again. This is what I want from professional wrestling & this is why I am a fan.

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I didn't love Omega/Okada. I can see it's going to be a very divisive match among fans. To me, it felt more like a 2007 ROH match than a main event Wrestle Kingdom Tokyo Dome NJPW match. It was like a 50-minute Kevin Owens WWE match.

 

Kenny Omega is too corny for me as a main event guy. I've never gotten the love for The Young Bucks either though, so it's obviously not geared toward me. I'm happy that I got the Naito/Tanahashi match and if people loved Okada/Omega I'm happy they got that too. :)

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Just watched Okada/Omega and it wasn't very good. There's like a constant theme between most New Japan main event matches where all the parts are alienated. They might work in a vacuum, but when you put them together, it's kind of a mess. Here Omega spends some time working Okada's back and neck in the beginning, he's not the best offensive wrestler, but I liked his dropkick to the back of the head. Then, Okada gets back into the match and forgets all about it, like saying "Ok, that part of the match is over, let's move on". After that there's the big moves starting with a top rope dragon suplex that I never bought as a believable nearfall and...yeah this wasn't for me, pretty formulaic New Japan main event despite being longer and more excesive. I agree with the comments about Omega's acting, his mannerisms worked much better against Naito, here I felt like he was trying too hard and it didn't feel organic at all.

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Didn't see it, but thought Omega shouldn't have won and after seeing that Okada took a top rope dragon suplex and still fought on, I doubt it's for me.

 

I summarized it like this: in my mind, there's two kinds of fans. The fans that love Kevin Owens and think he's great... and the fans that don't.

 

If you love Kevin Owens and his style, you would love Okada/Omega... because that's exactly what it was. It was a 50-minute Kevin Owens match. Just hit every big move you can think of and then kick out of all of them over and over again. Okada hit a guardrail elevated DDT on the concrete outside the ring at like the seven minute mark or something and the match went on another forty minutes after that. Just not my kinda wrestling. It feels like the old Ring of Honor that I couldn't stand where people were taking a Superplex onto a guard rail for a 2-count.

 

Less is more.

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Just watched Okada/Omega and it wasn't very good. There's like a constant theme between most New Japan main event matches where all the parts are alienated. They might work in a vacuum, but when you put them together, it's kind of a mess. Here Omega spends some time working Okada's back and neck in the beginning, he's not the best offensive wrestler, but I liked his dropkick to the back of the head. Then, Okada gets back into the match and forgets all about it, like saying "Ok, that part of the match is over, let's move on". After that there's the big moves starting with a top rope dragon suplex that I never bought as a believable nearfall and...yeah this wasn't for me, pretty formulaic New Japan main event despite being longer and more excesive. I agree with the comments about Omega's acting, he's mannerisms worked much better against Naito, here I felt like he was trying too hard and it didn't feel organic at all.

 

I was hoping one of my dudes would watch this so I wouldn't have to.

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Just watched Okada/Omega and it wasn't very good. There's like a constant theme between most New Japan main event matches where all the parts are alienated. They might work in a vacuum, but when you put them together, it's kind of a mess. Here Omega spends some time working Okada's back and neck in the beginning, he's not the best offensive wrestler, but I liked his dropkick to the back of the head. Then, Okada gets back into the match and forgets all about it, like saying "Ok, that part of the match is over, let's move on". After that there's the big moves starting with a top rope dragon suplex that I never bought as a believable nearfall and...yeah this wasn't for me, pretty formulaic New Japan main event despite being longer and more excesive. I agree with the comments about Omega's acting, he's mannerisms worked much better against Naito, here I felt like he was trying too hard and it didn't feel organic at all.

 

I was hoping one of my dudes would watch this so I wouldn't have to.

 

I'm only allowed to watch Fujiwara matches when it comes to Japan, I think. (Just ignore the Hase vs Misawa match I'm about to watch).

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To me, anyone who thought that was a great match simply can't conceive of a match ever being excessive. Which is fine, just we're on different planets, I guess.

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Okada/Omega felt like a landmark moment in "more is more" wrestling to me. "If one finisher counter sequence is good, why not 10?" Same goes for big spots, huge near falls, length etc. A top rope dragon suplex is hit and forgotten about like 30 seconds later. I don't know that I can really rate it but to say it was a monument to excess that offended many of my ideas about what pro wrestling should be. Which in some sense makes it a success, I suppose.

 

I want to clarify that I did not love the last few minutes of reversal stuff at all, but I've become very desensitized to it in Okada matches, so it doesn't bother me as much as it did even a year and a half ago. I agree that the end was too excessive, but in a weird sense a match where literally nothing of note happened for 20 minutes, made the excess at the end almost charming by comparison.

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Am just starting it now, spoiler free (didn't read any of above posts), but got a text today informing me that there were 4 matches on the show that were 5 stars... I love how ROH people overhype stuff.

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Currently watching the show, and up to Adam Cole/KOR there's really nothing worthwhile. That's like... 50% of the event in? Juice had a good showing against Cody, and even though he didn't have KEWL MOVEZ, he was outshining him.

 

There's something about people considering a show to be great based on the big matches alone, which by itself is fine - WK10 got praised with three legit very good matches (Ishii/Shibata, AJ/Nak and Tana/Okada), despite having an even worse undercard.

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Shibata/Goto was good. The only match I was hooked into from bell to bell. It felt fresh - they didn't retread the same old territory. Goto looked re-energized and pissed off, and the finishing stretch felt meaningful, making Goto look like a badass.

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Totally agree on Shibata/Goto. All their previous matches were pretty much the same match, but this one was different. They still hit all the points you expected (except, mercifully, the "let me offer up my back for you to kick me repeatedly" spot), but here the no-selling felt like it made sense within the narrative of the match, rather than doing it just for doing it's sake as it often feels in Shibata matches. Shibata also did some pretty neat mat stuff at the start, more than you usually get in his matches, and I thought his selling throughout was excellent.

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