Thursday, January 9, 2020

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 Night Two Review

Image result for naito double champion
Matches:
1.Liger, Sano vs Ryu, Hiromu ***
2.IWGP Jr Tag Titles: BC(c) vs R3k ***1/2
3.RevPro British HW Title: Sabre(c) vs SANADA ***1/2
4.IWGP US Title: Mox(c) vs Juice ***3/4
5.NEVER OW Title: KENTA(c) vs Goto ****
6.White vs Kota ***1/2
7.Jericho vs Tanahashi ***1/2
8.IWGP HW, IC Titles: Okada(HW) vs Naito(IC) ****1/2

Thoughts:
The conclusion to this year's WK double shot was another thrill ride, providing exactly what I wanted in the form of elite wrestling and high doses of drama.

I skipped the NEVER Six-man dark match. LIJ members, EVIL, SHINGO, and BUSHI took home the belts. I hope the belts start meaning something soon, but let's work on continuing to fix the IWGP tag divisions first, please.

The opener was Liger's official farewell match and I love that he had Hiromu and Ryu (Dragon) Lee involved. Lee came out wearing his ROH TV Championship. The fierce rivals worked full rudo here, and I'd love to know if there are any plans on adding Ryu to LIJ. He's in the ROH unit officially and did wear his jersey here. The New Beginning cards seem to suggest the answer is no. Good match and an emotional must-see for anyone who grew up watching the legend.

ELP and Ishimori defended their straps in our first championship match of the night. It was pretty good, but there was a disjointed feeling here and I felt off-groove too often to really latch onto it. Your experience may vary. I also admittedly would have preferred the BizCliz boys retaining but I'm likely the odd man out on that one.

The three spot featured Revolution Pro's top prize on the line as ZSJ defended against LIJ's SANADA. Rumors suggested a level of uncertainty that this was going to even happen hence why ZSJ ate a pin in the road to shows, but luckily those rumors were either untrue or the injury wasn't as bad as assumed. This promised to be one of those little gems hidden among the bigger matches of the weekend and it lived up nicely to that hype. Cold Skull and the Tech Wizard put in ten minutes of well worked counter wrestling and something worth seeing for fans of the style. Borderline great.

Next up, Mox put his recently regained US Championship on the line against rival and new Tag Champ, Juice. The outcome had people calling for new hopes of a relationship between New Japan and AEW but that still doesn't seem to be on the table. I get people want it, but false hopes and bullshit clickbait rumors aren't my thing. I hope Mox holding the title helps the strap gain a better identity as it still feels poorly defined, especially with the ROH relationship being rather MIA of late and their US expansion moving slowly. He just strikes me as the right guy to build the belt around and his AEW deal allows his continued presence in New Japan, so pull the trigger! This had a nice intensity level mixed in and a great defense in general.

Time for some upgraded violence! The NEVER strap, when utilized correctly, is one of my favorite parts of New Japan's structure and this is exactly the matchup I want to see utilized in regards to it. Years ago, KENTA was my favorite wrestler in the world and he remains high on my list since returning from purgatory. Goto is an underrated god that just tends to fail more often than not. That wasn't the case here, obviously, but it seems to have set up "bigger" things for the BC asshole, KENTA. I loved the match itself, which reminded me that I wish NJPW would start branding NEVER shows again to push this specific style. Just small, four or five match cards in smaller locations during the build to bigger shows. It won't happen, but it'd be cool. Still, I applaud NJPW on how diverse in style WK's two nights have already been style wise and strongly recommend this match, too.

I took a slight break between these two to watch some Devils hockey with the kiddo. Great game, but we ate another OTL. What else is new.

Someone had to go 0-2 on the weekend, and apparently that someone was Kota. Ibushi's don't-give-a-fuck stare and everything that comes with it is amazing. The endstretch was a bit much and I didn't care for the chair shot but the entire thing was very good. I had to knock it down a tad but I still recommend checking it out. I am eager to see the direction for both of these guys in 2020 going forward.

Jericho's role in New Japan has been entertaining and I love the manner in which he's being utilized. We're getting these dream matches checked off and he's more than holding up his end of the deal. Both of these are GOAT level. I've seen some hate directed at Y2J in regards to his physique but I also know most of those people look far worse. I also know even with the added weight that Jericho is one hell of a worker. In all, even with the smoke and mirror games, this was a very good match. Not everything needs to be a MOTYC. Just a reminder.

Closing the evening, we get the finale to the double title angle that highlighted the weekend. Okada, the amazing talent that always steps up and is the stable pillar the company leans on whenever they need. Naito, the amazing, charismatic people's champ. That story alone made this noteworthy. The subtleties added to it. Even without all of that, even if this was a blank slate, no stipulation, no reward exhibition, it would have been a must-see encounter, though. The tone and audience reactions, the heart and determination, the wrestling! This is what New Japan is all about and I suggest anyone who reads this blog needs to shut the fuck up and just watch it as soon as possible. Already seen it? Watch it again. Then watch Hiromu/Ospreay and Kota/Okada from night one again.

Three MOTYC's in two nights.

I'd have preferred a clean close, but seeing KENTA's after match angle tacked on was decent a choice, too.

Night one was a bit better of a show from a wrestling quality standpoint, but night two felt bigger and I love the outcome to the main event in particular. From time to time, I doubt Gedo's calls. They're usually rather small complaints and I've made it clear that I truly do find New Japan to be the kings of wrestling. That said, one of my biggest issues is the uneven booking of Naito, or what I've perceived as such. Perhaps I should blame WWE. See, I'm still tuned to think like a WWE fan despite the years and years of watching other feds more than Vince's empire. Gedo long played this and led to an amazing moment. Naito is the first man to hold both of the top prizes of NJPW at the same time and it's truly amazing. I still disagree with a few things and see a few others that need tweaked, but NJPW proved once again with these two shows that they have no equal. Watch them both and enjoy pro wrestling at its best!

Overall Rating: 85/100%

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