Wrestling Review: NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 11 (2017)

Each and every year, the January 4 Tokyo Dome show is the biggest event of the New Japan Pro Wrestling calendar. Now going by the name for over a decade, Wrestle Kingdom 11 is the 26th straight year NJPW will hold their show of shows, and 2017s outting will feature eight title matches. The main event of the evening will see the IWGP Heavyweight Championship be on the line between defending champion Kazuchika Okada and the Bullet Club’s Kenny Omega. Also not to be missed is the IWGP Intercontinental Championship match between challenger Hiroshi Tanahashi and champion Tetsuya Naito. The grand show will also see the ROH World Championship be defended when Kyle O’Reilly, who won the title at Ring of Honor’s Final Battle in December 2016, takes on long time rival Adam Cole. With two more singles titles, two tag team championships and even a 6-man tag team title match on the card, Wrestle Kingdom 11 is a show not to be missed by any wrestling fan.

+ Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Kenny Omega (IWGP Heavyweight Championship): another set of incredible entrances – Omega’s inspired by the Terminator, and Okada’s fitting for The Ace of New Japan – were just the beginning of a match more on the line than just a new champion, but the face of a company looking to take the brand worldwide. This was slower than the previous matches, but just as hard hitting, and I think the more methodical style helped overall. By the end, I was on the edge of my seat, holding my breathe for the eventual winner (and in case someone legit died from the crazy spots). We are four days into the new year, and this is guaranteed match of the year
+ KUSHIDA (c) vs Hiromu Takahashi (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship): punctuated by several very hard landings, this was a brutal match which really brought the usually subdued Japanese crowd to life. Back and forth, on an already stacked card this was potentially the match of the night, and another feather in the caps of two incredible rising stars
+ Tetsuya Naito (c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (IWGP Intercontinental Championship): Tanahashi debuted his new entrance theme, but personally I thought Naito’s entrance was fantastic. The crowd was electric for this match, especially towards the end, and the back and forth momentum swings made for a fantastic result
+ Katsuyori Shibata (c) vs Hirooki Goto (NEVER Openweight Championship): the strikes between these two are perhaps the hardest I have ever seen (except for perhaps Shibata’s match against Ishii at last year’s event), and the emotion on the face of both these performers made for an unforgettable match
+ Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa) (c) vs CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) vs G.B.H. (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma) (IWGP Tag Team Championship): this was another frantic multi-team tag title match, and it was a pretty good match overall. The G.O.D are a fierce team, and CHAOS hit so bloody hard this was like a car crash in stereo. Unfortunately, the commentary took a huge nosedive, due to Tonga Rao’s incredibly harsh language, which was picked up clear as day. I’d have preferred the commentators just ignore it
+ The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) (c) vs Roppongi Vice (Beretta & Rocky Romero) (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship): the Young Bucks are widely considered the best wrestling tag team in the world, and their superkick parties are a worldwide affair. Beretta and Romero are also such a good team that this was always going to be a good match, and it delivered in every way
+ David Finlay, Ricochet & Satoshi Kojima (c) vs Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi) vs CHAOS (Jado, Will Ospreay & YOSHI-HASHI) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL & SANADA) (Gauntlet Match for the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship): without even mentioning how incredible the Bullet Club entrance was, this match was hectic from start to finish. With a guaranteed three falls required, this was fast paced and impossible to call. If there was ever a match to expect a title change, this would be it (but whether that came to fruition, you’ll have to see). Ricochet is so damned good, and the huge number of potential match ups between the four teams made for some must see moments

– Kyle O’Reilly (c) vs Adam Cole (ROH World Championship): another title match for the Bullet Club, as member Adam Cole (bay bay!) lookes to reclaim the ROH title he lost only a month ago. This was a strange affair, as the Japanese crowd was not overly into the American title match, and an obvious would-be DQ in the early goings was entirely ignored which seemed to put a damper on the whole thing. A sudden ending only capped off an underwhelming match
– Cody vs Juice Robinson: both Cody (Rhodes, without the last name) and Juice Robertson (formerly CJ Parker of NXT) have been on a tear since leaving the WWE, so this match had the potential to be a sleeper hit, especially with Cody’s new Bullet Club alignment. The crowd was heavily behind Juice, which made for some fantastic good guy/bad guy playing, but overall this felt like a standard middle of the road match
– Tiger Mask vs Tiger The Dark: this was the opening match, between two incredible athletes donning the masks of characters from the Tiger Mask W anime series (though it is no secret who the two wrestlers are). As far as spectacle goes, this wasn’t much of a match, though I am sure the implications of this match will continue on the anme in the future

> I didn’t catch the pre-show battle royale match, though I am happy with the winner, who is a personal favourite of mine.
> I think Cody might be the first person to compete at WWE’s Wrestlemania, TNA’s Bound For Glory, Ring of Honor’s Final Battle and now NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom in the space of one year, which is incredibly impressive.

Should you watch this event: In many respects, this felt like several events rolled into one four-plus hour show. The early singles matches were all forgettable, or average at best, but all of the tag title matches were so good. Once the IWGP singles titles matches begun, this almost turned into a new show altogether, because they are all fantastic. Go out of your way to watch the KUSHIDA/Takahashi, Naito/Tanahashi and Okada/Omega matches, but only watch the rest if you are a big fan of the participants or folow the promotion religiously.


    1. Hi Esteban,

      My pleasure! I make all my reviews, but especially the wrestling ones, spoiler free. I find that half the fun of a good match is the winner.



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