Mike Reviews: New Japan Pro Wrestling Wrestle Kingdom 14 – Night One (04/01/2020)

Hello You!

Here we are, back again with some more New Japan action as they start the first night of their Tokyo Dome double shot with Wrestle Kingdom 14 Night One.

To say that people are jazzed for this show would be an understatement, as Twitter was awash with pictures and videos of people excitedly making their way into the Egg Dome. Oh yes, people are up for this one lads and ladies!

So without further ado, let’s cut my prattling and watch some chuffing wrestling!

The event is emanating from the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan

Calling the action are Kevin Kelly, Rocky Romero, Chris Charlton and Gino Gambino

Pre-Show Match 1
Karl Fredericks, Alex Coughlin, Clark Connors and Toa Henare Vs Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Yuya Uemura and Yota Tsuji

This would be LA Dojo Vs New Japan Dojo and Great Bash Heel. I’m personally enjoying the “Dojo Wars” aspect, as it feels a bit like Miyagi-Do Vs Cobra Kai. For those not au fait, the “Young Lion” system in Japan essentially sees newbies only being allowed to wear generic wrestling gear and is all about them working on their fundamentals, so the action between the younger lads is pretty much your meat and potatoes stuff but, because they don’t let guys on shows until they’re ready, the fundamentals are soundly executed.

Honma and Makabe eventually get in and do ten punches in the corner, as they are both grizzled veterans. Fredericks manages to catch Makabe with a spine buster however and brings in Henare, who isn’t really a Young Lion anymore in that he actually has unique attire and a gimmick. Henare gets cut off however and quadruple teamed, which leads to Honma getting his trademark falling head butt. Everything breaks down, leaving Henare and Tsuji in the ring, where Tsuji goes to THE DREADED YOUNG LION BOSTON CRAB.

They tease that this might be the finish, but some stiff chops from Coughlin finally cause him to break it, only for Tsuji to spear him down. This has given Henare some time to recover however and he gets a big clothesline to Tsuji for two. A sidewalk styled slam comes next however and that’s enough for Henare to get the big win. Maybe that means he’s in line for a bit of a push this year?

WINNERS: KARL FREDERICKS, ALEX COUGHLIN, CLARK CONNORS AND TOA HENARE
RATING: **

Typical Young Lions fare here, which due to the high competency level throughout the New Japan roster meant it was better that what a lot of younger wrestlers would give you in another company.

Kelly and Romero hype up the New Japan USA shows in 2020

Pre-Show Match 2
Manabu Nakanishi and Yuji Nagata Vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima

Sadly the G-EGGS team come out to Nakanishi’s theme and not Nagata’s, which is a shame as Nagata’s theme is way better. All four of these men are veterans who have been beating the fudge out of people in Japan for years. Both Nagata and Tenzan were two of the key guys who helped keep New Japan from completely imploding during the bad years and are two of my favourite New Japan guys ever.

Tenzan and Kojima try attacking Nakanishi together right form the off, but he puts a stop to that be suplexing them at the same time, which allows G-EGGS to control things for a bit. Kojima eventually manages to catch Nagata with a DDT and tags in Tenzan, who throws some of his trademark Mongolian Chops. Tenzan is really struggling physically today, but his charisma covers for it somewhat.

Kojima still moves pretty well, and he delivers his Bread Club chops in the corner to Nakanishi before heading up top. Nakanishi stops whatever he has planned though by throwing him off the top and clocking Kojima with a lariat for two. Argentine Back Breaker (Torture Wrack) looks to end things but Tenzan comes in for the save and Ten-Cozy drill the big man with the 3-D for two when Nagata saves. Kojima follows up with a lariat to Nakanishi next though, and that’s enough for three.

WINNERS: HIROYOSHI TENZAN AND SATOSHI KOJIMA
RATING: *1/2

The physical limitations of some of the competitors meant it couldn’t be as good as it would have been back in the day, but all four guys know what to do to have a basic match and they delivered on it here. As far as pre-show stuff goes, it was fine.

Nakanishi bows to the crowd post-match in a way that suggests he knows he might not have much more of these matches in him.

Well, those were certainly two wrestling matches alright. Now excuse me whilst I get myself a cuppa in my Donkey Kong Country barrel shaped mug in preparation for the main card starting.

Ahhh, that’s some good cha!

Main Card

We get the usual great show opening video package

Opening Match
Jyushin Liger Retirement Part 1
Jyushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask IV, Great Sasuke and Tatsumi Fujinami w/ El Samurai Vs Rysuke Taguchi, Tatsuhito Takaiwa, Shinjiro Ohtani and Noaki Sano w/ Kuniaki Kobayashi

Remember that move on No Mercy where you could do multiple powerbombs before hurking the opponent up into a Death Valley Driver? Takaiwa used to actually do that. I’m not sure if he’ll still do it these days of course due to his advanced age. But yeah, an actual human being used to do that. The whole point of this match is that it’s full of guys who either used to team with or feud with Liger over the years.

Liger is doing something that more wrestlers should probably do, in that he’s still good enough to go in the ring and wants to bow out now rather than lingering past the point that he isn’t. Fair play to him. Sasuke actually has a half Liger mask going on, which is pretty cool. Norio Honaga, another former Liger foe, is in as the referee as well.  The only thing this is missing is Kendo Kashin and Koji Kanemoto getting involved in some form.

Liger and Sano go at it to start, with Sano actually busting out a dropkick and a suicide dive, although he looks like it regrets it after the fact. Liger continues getting battered by his rogues gallery, as Ohtani gives him the face wash in the corner, getting Sasuke as well when he tries to come over to help. Liger takes Ohtani down with a  Shotei palm strike and brings in Tiger Mask IV to go at it with Takaiwa. Takaiwa still has a DVD in him, but he doesn’t do the powerbombs.

Tiger Mask gets worked over for a bit by The Grumpy Old Men, with Takaiwa even busting out an elbow drop from the top rope. Tiger eventually gets a Tiger Driver on Takaiwa and brings in Fujinami for some Dragon Screws. Sasuke comes in next and misses a senton bomb from the top rope, because Sasuke, and that brings in Sano for a double stomp, which he then misses. Sano gets a superplex on Sasuke, which brings in Liger for some spots with Taguchi.

Everyone takes a spill outside except for Liger and Taguchi, as they do battle in the ring with Taguchi getting a running knee and a double chicken wing face buster to pick up the three count and deflate the crowd in the process.

WINNERS: RYUSUKE TAGUCHI, TATSUHITO TAKAIWA, SHINJIRO OHTANI AND NOAKI SANO
RATING: **1/2

It’s normally tradition in Japan for guys to lose their retirement matches, as if they won then why would they be retiring in the first place? Personally I think having Liger win today and then lose tomorrow would have been better, but hey-ho. The match itself was fun, with everyone working hard despite their physical limitations.

Liger still gets to leave to his music in a nice touch.

Match Two
SANADA, EVIL, BUSHI and Shingo Takagi Vs Zack Sabre Jr, Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado and Taichi

SANADA and Zack are going at it tomorrow for the Rev Pro Title, so this is a preview of sorts. Suzuki-gun, who interestingly come out to Zack’s music and not Suzuki’s, jump start things, but the Los Ingobernables fight back. Suzuki gets annoyed by this and attacks EVIL with a chair outside the ring, as the brawl continues amongst the other team members. Suzuki goes for the Gotch Piledriver (Cradle Pildedriver) back inside the ring but EVIL is able to block it, so Suzuki tags out and the heat segment on EVIL continues.

EVIL eventually manages to suplex Taichi and makes the tag to Shingo, who runs wild on Suzuki-gun with explosive offence. Taichi replies with an enziguri though and rips off his baggy pleather pants, which leads to Shingo getting a lariat and Taichi getting another enziguri for a double down. Tags are made to SANADA and Zack, as they give us a brief tease for tomorrow until Desperado comes in to break it up. SANADA deals with him, but this gives Zack time to lock in the Cobra Twist.

SANADA fights that off, which leads to him and Zack trading pinning holds, with neither getting the win. SANADA tags out to BUSHI, which probably means that Zack is going to defeat him seeing as BUSHI is LIJ’s designated job guy. And indeed, Zack goes to the Rings of Saturn and that’s enough for the submission win.

WINNERS: SUZUKI-GUN
RATING: **

This did the job it needed to do by making me want to see SANADA and Zack tomorrow.

Zack won’t release the hold post-match, so SANADA locks him in the Skull End (Dragon Sleeper) until he lets go and flees.

Match Three
Hirooki Goto, Toru Yano, YOSH-HASHI and Tomohiro Ishii Vs KENTA, Yujiro Takahashi, Bad Luck Fale and Chase Owens w/ Pieter and Japanese Rugby Players

This is a preview for the Goto Vs KENTA match tomorrow. Yano makes the mistake of starting with Fale, and gets promptly bulled down. Yano eventually flees once he has the chance, which gives us YOSHI Vs Owens. I’d really like them to do something with Owens this year. They need some fresh faces on the upper card and he’s been biding his time for a while. Things go badly for CHAOS, as The Bullet Club mows them down and then starts working over YOSHI in their corner.

Ishii eventually gets the tag and teases a suplex on Fale, only to get slammed down. Yano, makes the mistake of slapping Fale’s head and tries to low bridge him out, only for Fale to see it coming and kick Yano outside. Goto and KENTA finally got at it, and it’s super-stiff as you’d expect.  KENTA gets a DDT and tags out to Yujiro, which pretty much telegraphs the finish. Ishii comes back in to get the big suplex on Fale finally, which gets a big pop, and Goto finishes off Yujiro with the GTR (Reverse DDT over the knee)

WINNERS: CHAOS
RATING: **

See my comments on the previous match. They need to do something about giving the job guys on each team more credibility though, as you knew there was no way Yujiro was beating Goto once he got tagged in.

Goto and KENTA have the intense stare down.

Match Four
IWGP Tag Team Titles
Champs: Guerrillas of Destiny (Tanga Loa and Tama Tonga) w/ Jado Vs David Finlay and Juice Robinson

Fin-Juice won the tag tournament in December to earn this Title shot. Juice seems to be going for a Tom Selleck tribute with his facial hair. Fin-Juice have the stupid idea of starting this one on the ramp, which sees them promptly get clobbered. Juice gets worked over in the Guerrilla corner, bit eventually manages to get a DDT to Loa and tags in Finlay. Finlay runs wild on Loa, looking good in the process, but Tonga causes him to fall from the top rope onto his injured shoulder, which stops his momentum in its tracks.

The Champs get some heat on Finlay now, but he eventually manages to get a desperation spear and tags in Juice for the hot tag. Juice runs wild on the Champs, getting cannonballs into the corner onto both of them, before unloading with some jabs to Loa. Loa cuts him off however and tags Tonga back in. Juice manages to reply with leaping side kicks to both of the heels and then tags in Finlay, who does a dive out on to Loa and then coming in for a dropkick/leg sweep combo for one.

Finlay goes for a superplex on Tonga, but Loa comes in with a powerbomb to stop that and Tonga comes off the top with a splash for two when Juice saves. The Champs go for the Magic Killer on Finlay, but he fights them off, only to get caught with the old Dudley Boyz back drop/neck breaker move for two. Magic Killer comes next, but Juice saves once again at two, which earns him a Magic Killer of his own for his troubles.

Jado calls for a super powerbomb on Finlay, but he turns it into a rana in mid-aidr and then gets a roll up on Tonga for two. Jado gets Finlay with a cane shot during the kick out, which leads to a Tonga roll up for two. Tonga goes for the Gun Stun (cutter) but Finaly fights that off and gets a Stunner for two when Loa makes the save. Juice clocks Jado with a punch and then gets the Pulp Friction (Killswitch/Unprettier/Tomikaze) on Load, which leads to Finlay getting the Acid Drop on Tonga for the pin and the Titles.

WINNERS AND NEW CHAMPIONS: FIN-JUICE
RATING: ***

I enjoyed that, as it started slow but then led to some fun near falls. Good stuff.

Fin-Juice celebrate, but Juice looks to be hurting following that effort, which might make his quest for the US Title tomorrow that bit more difficult.

Match Five
Texas Death Match. No DQ’s, only way to win is by knockout or submission
IWGP United States Title
Champ: Lance Archer Vs Jon Moxley

Moxley had to forfeit the Title due to missing a Title defence against Juice Robinson, which led to Archer defeating Juice for the vacant belt. Archer comes to the ring wearing both a spiked helmet and carrying metal bin lids. Both men waste no time taking this to the outside, where Moxley throws Archer into the metal railings before putting him back inside and grabbing a Singapore cane. Archer blocks that with the old “throwing a chair” technique, which is what I believe Frank A. Gotch used against William Potchanoski in their famous 167 minute draw in Belgrade back in the 20’s.

Archer hits Moxley with the chair and cane, trying to get him to quit. Moxley refuses however, so Archer heads up top for the rope walk, only for Moxley to wear him out with the cane to counter it and then adds a shot with one of the metal bin lids. Moxley suplexes Archer onto some chairs and then adds a running knee to the head, but Archer rolls outside to break the count. Moxley tries to follow, but Archer catches him with a choke slam onto the apron and then throws one of the Young Lions at Moxley like he’s playing Super Mario Bros. 2 or something.

Archer adds The Undertaker WrestleMania dive next onto Moxley and a gaggle of extras, as this match continues to be the crazy brawl we all wanted. Moxley manages to break the count, but finds Archer waiting for him with the cane once he gets back inside. Archer sets up some chairs, and after a struggle he slams Moxley through them with a reverse Splash Mountain styled move called the “Black Out”

Moxley amazingly gets up from that, so Archer applies THE CLAW to finish him off. Moxley somehow turns that into a cross arm breaker, but Archer powers his way out and then suplexes Moxley over his head (barely) whilst holding on to Moxley’s throat. Moxley retaliates with the Dirty Deeds (Double Arm DDT) but Archer makes it up at 9. Death Rider (Elevated Double Arm DDT) looks to end things but Archer fights that off and gets DA POUNCE (period) before following up with a choke slam onto a chair.

Moxley only just breaks the count at 9 and defiantly flips the double bird, so Archer goes to the route one approach of trying to suffocate Moxley with a plastic bag. Somehow Moxley manages to drop his hand dropping at three, so Archer heads outside and gets up two tables. Archer tries to do the Black Out through the tables, but Moxley blocks that and then gets the Dirty Deeds off the apron through the two tables. These are the stiff smaller Japanese tables as well. Moxley beats the count and regains the Title.

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: JON MOXLEY
RATING: ***1/2

One heck of a violent palette cleanser right there, as both men worked well together and the big weapon spots were suitably devastating but also reasonably safe. Well worth a watch this one.

Archer seems to have cut open his arm as a result of the DDT off the apron, whilst Moxley celebrates in the ring as a two time Champion. Moxley grabs a mic post-match, saying that he’ll settle the score with Juice once and for all tomorrow.

Match Six
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title
Champ: Will Ospreay Vs Hiromu Takahashi

Takahashi came back from a gnarly neck injury, with the pre-match video package suggesting that he’s still a step off the pace and that Ospreay is almost cocky about his chances of winning. This match has had insane hype, so I hope both guys don’t go too overboard trying to meet it. Both men bring the garish ring entrance gear, with Ospreay bringing a sword and a White Tiger styled outfit, whilst Hiromu looks like he murdered all of the characters from Viva Piñata and took their skin to make his ring jacket.

Ospreay shows off his cockiness to start, by posing on the top rope following the opening chain wrestling sequence. As you can imagine, doing accurate play by play here would probably take up two whole pages, but rest assured when I tell you that they do a ridiculous counter sequence very much in the vein of Lynn/RVD, and it looks great. Hiromu eventually brings that to an end by getting a running dropkick off the apron, before working Ospreay over back inside.

Ospreay eventually catches Hiromu with a hanging DDT off the second rope for two however, which leads to Hiromu rolling outside and selling his neck big. Ospreay directly works on the neck now, yanking it over the railings and then adding a neck breaker on the floor. I’d call Ospreay the subtle heel here, but I genuinely think he’s trying to get booed with his behaviour here, so there’s not much subtlety to be had.

Hiromu manages to catch Ospreay out of nowhere with a Complete Shot and then makes a comeback, throwing some chops in for good measure, only for Ospreay to get the handspring Pele kick to send him rolling outside. We get another incredible sequence, as both men counter the others’ moves, which ends with Ospreay getting the Space Flying Tiger Drop to the outside. That was absolutely nuts, in a good way.

Phenomenal Forearm looks to end things for Ospreay back inside, but Hiromu kicks out at two. Another set of counters sees Ospreay getting a 619 to send Hiromu onto the apron, where Ospreay goes mega jerk by getting a double stomp out there. Ospreay adds a missile dropkick to Hiromu’s back, but he clearly pulls it due to Hiromu having real neck issues, and Hiromu doesn’t really sell it properly, falling like a tree after Ospreay has almost passed him. Fair play to Ospreay for being safe, but perhaps something like that shouldn’t be in the match in the first place if such precaution is needed?

Hiromu sells like he’s finished after that dropkick, and Ospreay sets him up for something on the top rope to finish him off officially. Hiromu slips out of that however and goes for a head scissors up there, but Ospreay blocks that, only for Hiromu to get a Victory Roll type move off the top for two. Fireman’s carry into a sit out slam gets two from Hiromu, but Ospreay replies with a Shooting Star Press for two.

Os Cutter (Springboard back jumping cutter) gets another two for Ospreay, with Hiromu kicking out just before the three count in a fantastic near fall. Ospreay goes for a big back elbow strike, but Hiromu ducks that and then follows up with a sit out powerbomb for a double down. Both men trade elbows, as the crowd is with them, and Hiromu counters another Os Cutter attempt into a German Suplex before countering an Ospreay powerbomb attempt into a Canadian Destroyer for two.

Wow, the near falls in this one have been brilliant, with both men kicking out at just the right time for maximum drama. More counters take place, which leads to Ospreay getting the Spanish Fly for two before delivering a stiff back elbow strike to the back of the head before going for the Strom Breaker (Canadian Back Breaker into a Twisting Slam) but Hiromu counters that into another Destroyer for two.

Hiromu turns Ospreay inside out and finally gets the Time Bomb for two, before getting  a Sliding D and following up with a wacky sit out Tombstone Piledriver styled move, which is finally enough for the three count and the Title.

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: HIROMU TAKAHASHI
RATING: ****1/4

An excellent match, with the near falls in particular being incredible and great selling from both men. Some of the strikes were a little bit loose, but aside from that it was all kinds of great and you definitely need to seek this one out.

Hiromu celebrates with his Title post-match in an emotional scene.

Double Gold Dash!!!

Semi-Main Event
IWGP Intercontinental Title
Champ: Jay White w/ Gedo Vs Tetsuya Naito

This is the first match in a mini-tournament to decide who will hold both the IC and IWGP belts tomorrow night. It’s similar to what the WWF did with Vengeance in 2001, although this tournament will probably be better. You’d have to think that this year is finally going to be Naito’s year, but you never know with New Japan. White busts out his cool alternate white attire here, ala Ted Dibiase.

White does his usual heel stalling to start, but Naito puts a stop to that by giving him a hanging neck breaker off the apron to the floor. Naito works White over back inside the ring, targeting the neck, but Gedo grabs his leg to distract him and that allows White to fight his way back in to things. I love how White goes out of his way to be as thoroughly unlikable as possible. There are too many heels these days who seem to care about being cool rather than being hated.

White and Gedo turn up the antics, by hitting Naito in the knee with a chair, and White throws Naito into the railings at ringside for good measure. White mocks Naito’s lying in the ring taunt, drawing audible boos from the normally more polite Japanese crowd, and then continues to control things inside the ring, targeting the knees especially.

Naito eventually makes a bit of a comeback, targeting the neck again, showing that both men have a clear game plan as to how they intend to try and win this. White covers up when Naito sets up for a dropkick in the corner, so Naito patiently waits and then dropkicks him once his guard drops in a funny bit. Naito slaps White around now, with the idea seeming to be that he wants White to lose his cool and make a mistake, which is a good way of combatting an evil schemer to be fair. It’s hard to scheme and plot when you’re pissed off and acting on instinct.

White manages to spike Naito with a DDT and then follows up with a DVD for two, before setting up for a uranage slam. Naito fights that off, so White tugs the hair to stop him in his tracks. Naito keeps fighting however and gets a series of elbow strikes before following up with a running forearm. White replies with the Complete Shot however and then follows up with a dead lift German Suplex for a double down.

White recovers first and sets Naito up on the top rope for a superplex. Naito fights that off however and sets White up for what looks to be a rana from the top rope, but White slips out and trips Naito up so he goes face first into the top turnbuckle for another double down. White stays on Naito’s leg, using Tanahashi’s Dragon Screw, which is particular dick move on his part as Naito and Tanahashi famously have their own rivalry going on.

They tease that Naito can’t stand under his own power, but he keeps bravely pulling himself back up, only to take a uranage slam for two. In a sick spot, White gives Naito a Saito Suplex to the outside, which leads to Naito landing back and neck first onto the apron. Kiwi Krusher (Ki Krusher) is blocked back inside, so White gets a spinning vertical suplex and then follows up with the Krusher for two. Great kick out for Naito there, as he only just made it. This seems to be a trend with people in New Japan, their instincts for near falls are top class.

White applies the Tanahashi Tap Out (inverted figure four) and they do the big submission tease, with Naito stuck in the middle of the ring with nowhere to go. The drama here is fantastic, as the Naito fans are terrified that he’s going to lose and he sells the hold big before finally making a last gasp lunge towards the ropes to break the hold. That entire bit of the match was just exceptionally worked by both men. Stuff like that is why pro wrestling can be so great.

Naito tries going to the elbows again, which leads to a Gedo distraction from the apron. Naito sees White coming however and gets him with a Tornado DDT before setting him up top and bring him down with a rana. Gloria (Pumphandle styled side slam) comes next but White kicks out at two, before sitting down so that Naito can’t follow up. The ref gets bumped, which brings Gedo in with a chair. Naito deals with that, but this allows White to catch him with a low blow.

Naito fends him off and kicks Gedo right in the Tarzan Goto’s, but this allows White to clock him with a chair. White preps for the Blade Runner (Sister Abigail’s Kiss) but opts for a suplex instead, which allows Naito to follow up with The Destino (Satellite DDT) for a double down. Naito tries it again, but White fights it off , which leads to Naito getting a reverse rana following a counter sequence and another Destino…for two!

Wow, that was one heck of a near fall! Naito decides just to do the move again, but White counters it, only to get spiked with an Emerald Flowsion. Another Destino ends it straight after to send Naito into the Double Gold Dash Final!!

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: TETSUYA NAITO
RATING: ****

That one built and built until the big near falls at the end, and it was cracking stuff. White was a great heel and Naito sold big to make the final exchanges really mean something. Another match definitely worth a look.

Naito shows he is still a jerk by spitting at the ref, just not as big a one as White.

Main Event
IWGP Heavyweight Title
Champ: Kazuchika Okada Vs Kota Ibushi

Ibushi won the G1 Climax tournament back in August to set this up. Okada has long been at the top of the company, and winning the two belts would be big for his legacy. I personally think we’ll get an Okada Vs Naito Final tomorrow now, but who knows? Okada gets the big entrance, looking like an absolute mega-star in the process. He then has glow in the dark entrance gear just to make him look even cooler than he already does, which is very cool indeed.

So help me, but Okada with his hold shorts and white boots actually reminds me a bit of Billy Gunn. I wonder if he also thinks that the best surprises always sneak up from behind? Both men are tentative to start, as they take their time in the opening stages to feel one another out. Eventually Ibushi starts bringing slaps and kicks into the equation, which lets him gain control for a bit. Okada eventually manages to catch Ibushi with a running back elbow though, which allows the momentum to swing in his favour, with a DDT getting him two.

In a great bit of commentary, the commentators ponder whether Okada’s new boots might not be fully worn in yet and muse if that will affect him in the match. I love little stuff like that. It’s the sort of thing you don’t get enough from other commentary teams sometimes. Okada DDT’s Ibushi outside on the floor as well, but Ibushi fires up back inside the ring, so Okada just calmly DDT’s him again in a nice bit of character from both men.

Ibushi manages to fight back with a running kick to the mid-section and then delivers a nice powerslam before following up with a Quebrada for two. However, when he goes up again Okada is able to cut him off and then sends him to the floor with a dropkick before booting him into the front row. Okada gets the running cross body over the barricade and then mugs for the crowd before putting Ibushi in the ring for a modified leg lock and camel clutch styled move which Charlton says is either called “Red Ink” or is like another move he does called “Red Ink”. I wasn’t quite sure which one he meant.

Okada drops the elbow from the top rope and its RAINMAKER POSE time. Rainmaker (spin out lariat) is ducked by Ibushi and he gets a modified Tombstone called The Bastard Driver for a double down. Ibushi gets a standing double stomp to send Okada outside and then gets the Golden Triangle (Asai moonsault to the outside) and both men sell it big. Ibushi goes for the running Bam-Ba-Ye knee back inside, but Okada counters it with a dropkick and then gets a Tombstone to set up the Rainmaker.

Ibushi manages to grab the ropes to block that, so Okada snaps him down to the mat with a lovely European uppercut. Everything about that was great; the execution of the strike and the way Ibushi sold it. Ibushi no sells some follow up uppercuts though and then no sells a dropkick for good measure. Ibushi goes psycho with some strikes, as he does the “my mind goes to a different place” thing better than Randy Orton could ever dream to, throwing some stiff punches of Okada as he covers up on the mat.

Psycho Ibushi tries to German Suplex Okada into the ring from the apron, but Okada fights it off and then goes for a Tombstone on the apron. Both men counter the others’ attempts at doing moves on the apron, which is a battle that Okada finally wins as he eventually manages to get that illusive Tombstone. They do a count out tease, which has the crowd having kittens, and Ibushi only just beats the count at 19, only to roll in to two big impact moves from Okada (neck breaker and Roode Bomb) for two near falls.

Okada folds Ibushi up with a German Suplex and then preps for the Rainmaker, but Ibushi fights him off and gets a lariat of his own to buy himself some time. Ibushi kicks Okada out onto the apron and actually gets the German into the ring this time for a near fall, as we hit the 30 minute mark. Whoever wins this one, both guys are going to be banged up in that main event tomorrow. Ibushi tries to lawn dart Okada into the corner, but Okada slips out and gets a Tombstone, only for his follow up Rainmaker attempt to be countered by Ibushi into one of his own!

Ibushi gets the Bom-Ba-Ye, but Okada kicks out at one! (Yes, ONE!) So Ibushi delivers it again for two and then follows up with the Kamigoye (Knee to the face whilst holding the opponents knees) for another near fall. I was totally buying that as the finish there. Ibushi takes down the knee pad and looks to deliver the Kamigoye again, but Okada manages to counter it at the last gasp with a dropkick and both men are down. Wow, what a match this is!

Both men trade strikes, which you feel would be a questionable tactic for Okada, and indeed Ibushi kicks him right in the HEAD before following up with a stiff spin kick to the chest and then collapsing with exhaustion. Ibushi sets Okada up on the top rope and fights for what looks to be a Tiger Driver from up there, but Okada manages to fight him off and goes for a rana, only to be caught on the way down with a powerbomb for two. That was superb!

Ibushi heads up and goes for the Phoenix Splash, but Okada dodges it and hits a spinning lariat before finishing things off with the Rainmaker. Wait! No! Ibushi kicked out! I was totally buying that as the finish, what a great near fall!! Okada adds another Rainmaker, but shakes his head and drags Ibushi to his feet for one more. However, he’s STILL not done and goes for it again, only Ibushi to duck it and get the V-Trigger of all moves. Kamigoye is blocked into a sit out Tombstone and the Rainmaker FINALLY brings this war to an end!!!

WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: KAZUCHIKA OKADA
RATING: *****

This was an incredible main event that just kept getting all kinds of epic. There were so many times that I thought it had peaked but then it kept on getting better. This is MUST-WATCH!!!

Okada gets awarded his belt as Ibushi weeps. It’s now Okada Vs Naito tomorrow for both belts. And indeed, Naito wanders out to chat some wham. Things end peaceably though, for now.

In Conclusion

This show had a bit of a slow start but it built really well and the last three matches were all great contests that you really need to see.

I much prefer this way of doing a show actually, where you start small and build up to the big matches at the end. It’s much better than the WWE way of jumbling up the card and dotting “cool down” matches all over the show. It’s what makes WrestleMania feel like such a slog every year.

That all being said, it’s an easy thumbs up for Night One. I’ll see you all tomorrow for Night Two!