Just got back from Wrestle Kingdom V at the Tokyo Dome. That's the biggest show I think I've been to live and the best show. There was some clunkers, but I'll get to those in a minute. Just to be in the Tokyo Dome for the big January 4th show was surreal. The history. The legacy. The Japanese version of Wrestlemania almost. Even then, the show wasn't completely sold out. I would say it was close though.
So, I'll detail the matches and give my thoughts on the crowd's reactions, etc.
1. Jado, Gedo, Yujiro Takahashi, and Tomohiro Ishii vs. Wataru Inoue, Tiger Mask, Tama Tonga, and Tomoaki Honma
The heel team featured long time Japan staples Jado and Gedo. They've seriously been around forever. It was good to see Tiger Mask IV again live as I saw him at Korakuen Hall last year. Tama Tonga acts, looks, and even does the same moves as Jimmy Snuka. Must be related. The match was a typical 8 Man match, nothing stood out particularly. Inoue pinned Gedo after a stiff looking spear. This was the opening match, so the crowd was excited to see it.
2. Kenny Omega and Taichi vs. Koji Kanemoto and Ryusuke Taguchi
This match I was interested in mainly because of Kenny Omega, who is pretty hilarious with his Street Fighter moves. I was a bit disappointed he didn't do any of them though. He has a lot of talent, and is also one half of the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Champions with Kota Ibushi (who is absolutely incredible, more on him later). The match also featured Ryusuke Taguchi, who regularly teams with IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Prince Devitt as Apollo 55. So this was a match to get the guys on the card I guess. Lots of good action, some high spots to get the crowd pumped and then Taguchi pinned Taichi with a roll-up. Kanemoto does a Rick Rude dance a bunch of times. I guess he is supposed to be ravishing or something...
MAIN CARD! I was pumped. They had a countdown clock and everything.
1. Muscle Orchestra (Strongman and Manabu Nakanishi) vs. Beer Money (James Storm and Robert Roode) vs. IWGP Heavyweight Tag Champions Bad Intentions (Carl "Machinegun" Anderson and Giant Bernard)
Most people know Giant Bernard as A-Train from WWE, but he's a beast in Japan. The Strongman guy looks jacked to the gills, seriously. He gorilla pressed Bernard. Holy shit...Beer Money heeled to the crowd and got some heat, the first of the night it seems. Japanese crowds don't seem to like to boo people much I guess. Overall, a decent match. All the teams hit their finishers and then Anderson hit Roode with an Ace Crusher and pinned him. Pretty short and sweet match. By the way, Muscle Orchestra has to be the funniest name ever for a tag team.
2. CMLL Showcase: La Sombra and Mascara Dorada vs. Jushin Thunder Liger and Hector Garza
I was excited to see Liger live. I remember watching him wrestle Brian Pillman in WCW. Memories...Anyway, pretty good match with some nice high spots. Garza spends some time ripping his tear away ring gear off. I guess that gets the girls to squeal in Mexico. In Japan, not so much. Lots of flipping and flying and surprisingly La Sombra pins Liger after a corkscrew plancha of sorts. What? I guess they are setting up La Sombra for a title shot against Liger, who was carrying some CMLL gold. The crowd seemed excited to see Liger as well, as I guess he is spending time in Mexico these days more.
3. Deep Sleep to Lose (Sleeper Match): Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Takashi Iizuka
Iizuka is fucking insane, that's all I have to say. He's a perfect crazy heel who actually got some mega heat because I guess they've been doing this storyline with Tenzan's neck is jacked up. Yet Iizuka keeps jumping Tenzan from behind and cranking the shit out of his neck. So, my friends, this is how a storyline works.
a. Tenzan has a jacked neck
b. Iizuka is bat shit crazy and keeps cranking Tenzan's neck
c. Tenzan vows vengeance, Iizuka vows to continue to be bat shit crazy
Iizuka likes to tear the clothes off one of the ring announcers I guess, because he just grabbed this poor guy and ripped his shirt off. This was a great match from a storytelling standpoint. I wish more matches were like this. Iizuka got mega heat just from using a sleeper hold. A sleeper hold. It goes to show you don't have to kill yourself to have a good match. The crowd went nuts everytime Iizuka locked in the sleeper. But then Tenzan fought back, kicked Iizuka's ass and locked on the Anaconda Vice (his move that CM Punk borrowed later). Iizuka looks not as crazy when he's unconscious.
Note: Iizuka is over like rover. Great, simple characters still work. Tenzan played the sympathetic babyface perfectly.
4. TNA vs. NJPW Hardcore Match: Rob Van Dam vs. Toru Yano
RVD's music really fucking sucks live. It's completely stupid. It says something like Van Assassinator or something. Seriously, the lyrics are awful. The crowd seemed happy to see RVD, but Yano kicked his ass most of the match. It reminded me of one of the better WWF Attitude Era hardcore matches. Just kind of harmless, goofy hardcore action. Yano stuck a mop in RVD's face and also smashed him with some kind of rice paper umbrella. That was fun, I guess. Yano even mocked RVD's "Rob-Van-Dam" thing, which the crowd thought was funny.
Decent match for what it was. RVD wins with a Five Star Frog Splash with a chair lying on Yano's chest. Crunch.
Note: Yano was more over than RVD. And he seems like a Japanese Sandman sort of, except not as drunk and better. He was drinking sake from a bottle, that's why.
5. No Justice, No Life: Yuji Nagata vs. Minoru Suzuki
I was super excited for this match. Two veterans who can go in the ring and look cool doing it. These two are the way veterans should be booked. TNA and WWE should take notice. Yet Nagata and Suzuki love striking the shit out of each other. I also noticed that Bryan Danielson seems to pattern the way he throws his kick flurries from Nagata. Just a little note.
Nagata cranked the dog monkey shit out of Suzuki's arm for a good three minutes. They slapped and kicked each other a bunch of times, and Suzuki made crazy faces. Highly entertaining match with Nagata dumping Suzuki on his head three times with Backdrop Drivers before getting the pin.
Note: Best match of the night thus far. Edges out Tenzan/Iizuka barely.
6. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship match: IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion
Prince Devitt vs. Kota Ibushi
This match was incredible. I can't really do it justice by talking about it, but it was really awesome. Kota Ibushi is insane. He does high spots right. The crowd was sure he was going to win but Prince Devitt hit him with an Avalanche Falcon Arrow that knocked him loopy and that was it. Devitt retains. Not sure why Devitt hasn't been offered a contract from WWE or TNA, because he has a good look and is as good a wrestler as any of the workhorses on either roster. Maybe he likes it in Japan, which is good for him.
Note: Match of the Night for sure. Nothing topped this one. Reminds me of really good Ring of Honor main events. Too smallish guys, kicking ass and doing cool spots without overdoing it.
7. NJPW vs. NOAH I: Hiroki Goto and Kazuchika Okada (NJPW) vs. Takashi Sugiura and Yoshihiro Takayama (NOAH)
The NOAH team consists of one half of the GHC Tag Champions Takayama and the GHC Heavyweight Champion Sugiura. I just saw these guys a couple of weeks ago. Takayama is huge for a Japanese guy, has a long, creepy face, and long bleached blond hair. He stands out, that's for sure. Goto and Okada both got some good strikes in, but the power of Sugiura and Takayama was too much. They brutalized poor Okada at one point, just kicking him and kneeing him over and over.
Takayama finished off Okada with one of the highest German Suplexes I've ever seen. Right on his head!
8. TNA Heavyweight Championship match: Jeff Hardy vs. Tetsuya Naito
Wow. Quite a let down, I have to say. Hardy looked stoned and gassed the whole match. No telling with him. He botched a pretty basic step over, roll through type spot, and ended up with his ass in the air. The crowd laughed. If you know anything about Japanese wrestling, the crowd laughing at a botch is the equivalent of saying "you fucked up." Not good. Hardy's entrance looked cool anyway.
I wanted to like this match, but no one bought Naito (one half of No Limit) as a threat to Hardy and it just seemed to be there. The crowd actually seemed deflated that it was over so quickly with no drama at all. Hardy hits the Twist of Fate and the Swanton. Pin me, pay me. Someone behind me even said "Ehh?" The crowd did seem pumped to see Hardy live though. Just a letdown after having so many great matches beforehand.
Note: Hardy actually said in a pre-taped promo that he will "have the best match the Tokyo Dome has ever seen." Uh, yeah...
EDIT: I found out apparently Hardy jumped in a fire at some Christmas party and that could explain why his performance seemed off. I guess.
9. NJPW vs. NOAH II: Shinsuke Nakamura (NJPW) vs. Go Shiozaki (NOAH)
Great match and featured one of my favorite Japanese wrestlers, Shinsuke Nakamura. Not really sure why I like him, he just comes off as a legit bad ass. He either has a look on his face like he doesn't give a shit or like he's about to crush your face. He was ranked Number 2 one year for the PWI500 as well, so that says something about him. Shiozaki is no slouch either though. He hit a sick chop at one point that the crowd went "Ohhh!" (which is like saying "holy shit") I mean, he fucking decked him.
Great all around match with some good strikes, good submissions, and Nakamura ending the match with his flying knee attack, Boma Ye. The best way to describe it is he just springs forward suddenly and knees the shit out of Shiozaki's face.
10. The Absolute Exhaust (Huh?): Togi Makabe vs. Masato Tanaka
I love watching Masato Tanaka live. He totally heeled it up on Makabe, who is like some kind of Superstar character who carries a big JYD chain with him. Or is it a Bruiser Brody chain? Not sure. Anyway, this match had some hard hitting action. Tanaka would beat on Makabe, then he would paintbrush his head or just kind of nudge him with his toe. Good stuff. I'm not for sure what the finish was, but I think Makabe just knocked Tanaka upside his head and that was it. I love Japanese matches. They drop each other through tables for 15 minutes and then one guy just hits the other really hard in the head, and it's over.
Note: I got to see the Rolling Elbow. Tanaka knocked Makabe's teeth loose I think. Tanaka also looks leaner and more ripped than he did during his ECW days.
The MAIN EVENT: IWGP Heavyweight Championship match:
Satoshi Kojima vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
They set up a good storyline for this one too. No, Kojima didn't sleep with Tanahashi's girlfriend. Nor did Tanahashi kill Kojima's pet parrot or some other stupid shit. They built up Kojima's lariat as a move that had put away so many other wrestlers. They showed footage of him clipping Makabe, then making Nakamura cut a flip, just Kojima decimating people with his lariat. So what does Tanahashi do? He targets Kojima's lariat arm. Simple, yet effective. Kojima does hit the lariat, but his arm is so battered from Tanahashi working it over, that the lariat is weaker, thus Tanahashi ain't putting that shit over. Simple, easy, effective. Tanahasi hits three or four frog splashes throughout the match, but finally gets the right one in, and picks up his FIFTH IWGP Heavweight Championship reign. Wow, really? He looks too young to have won it 5 times.
Oh wait, John Cena has won the WWE Championship like 9 times. Nevermind.
This show made me mostly forget about the crap America peddles nowadays and made me realize that wrestling can be simple and effective and still be over. opponent. Whoever was booking this event needs to go work for TNA or WWE. The gimmick matches all made sense. The storylines weren't convoluted. Every match had a clean winner. Wow. I'm amazed.
Well, this ends my horribly long review of the show. If you made it this far, you are truly a wrestling otaku.
Best Match: Prince Devitt vs. Kota Ibushi
Biggest Pop: Tanahashi winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Most Heat: Iizuka applying the sleeper hold (yes, a sleeper hold)
Overall, glad I went! Awesome show!