The holidays are over and now it’s time to get to the real most wonderful time of the year: Wrestle Kingdom Season. The first big show of the Roaring ‘20s (ha!) — New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 14 — gave us some damn good wrestling to kick off the decade and a couple of MOTY candidates. I just wish we’d gotten to see the first-ever Tokyo Dome STARDOM match here in the US…
-Yuya Uemura, Yota Tsuji, Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe vs. Alex Coughlin, Clark Connors, Karl Fredericks & Toa Henare – No rumble to start WK14 this time. Instead, the pre-show began with an 8-man tag match designed to showcase the Young Lions from the Japan and LA dojos. It was a solid back-and-forth that did what it was supposed to: get us ready for the real show and give the Young Lions a bit of shine. – 2/5
-Yuji Nagata and Manabu Nakanishi vs. Hiroshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima– Four veterans going at it in a meaningless tag match. Again, this match was just okay. We’ve seen better out of all of these guys, but it was still decent and hard-hitting and a good match to end the preshow on. – 2/5
-Jushin Thunder Liger, Tatsumi Fujinami, The Great Sasuke & Tiger Mask (with El Samurai) vs. Naoki Sano, Shinjiro Otani, Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Ryusuke Taguchi (with Kuniaki Kobayashi) – On paper, Liger’s penultimate match was nothing to write home about, but knowing it was the second-to-last stop of his farewell tour made it feel bigger than it was. Tiger Mask and Sasuke came out in Liger tribute gear and it was awesome. There were a few great spots and a lot of nostalgia, but the ending was a bit disappointing. The nostalgic factor raised the rating for me, but not by much. – 2.75/5
-BUSHI, Shingo Takagi, EVIL & SANADA vs. El Desperado, Taichi, Minoru Suzuki & ZSJ – I. Loved. This. Match. The first half was basically just a giant brawl and I was here for it! EVIL vs. Murder Grandpa was a fun and vicious start and Shingo vs. Taichi was hard-hitting, but the real story was ZSJ and SANADA. Those two face each other for the British Heavyweight title this morning and they gave us a preview that was just *chef kiss* magnifique. It made me so excited for their title match and I can’t wait to see what submissions they pull out. – 3.25/5
–YOSHI-HASHI, Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii & Hirooki Goto vs. KENTA, Chase Owens, Yujiro Takahashi & Bad Luck Fale – Honestly, not much happened in this match. Fale looked strong AF and Yano got his ass beat. There was surprisingly little KENTA considering he has an upcoming title match against Goto, who looked the best in this match. – 2/5
– IWGP Tag Team Championship: Guerrillas of Destiny vs. Dave Finlay & Juice Robinson – There sure was a lot of brawling on this show. Once Juice recovered from his pre-bell beating, he came out swinging. Literally; most of his time was spent striking. A ton of near falls this match, plus Jado interference had the makings of a match that could’ve been 3+ Bibles, but just felt very flat. – 2.25/5
– IWGP United States Championship: Lance Archer vs. Jon Moxley – The Texas Death Match is where business started to pick up. This match was so freakin’ fun! Archer and Mox threw everything at each other–chairs, kendo sticks, trash cans, young boys. Hell, Archer tried to straight up commit murder at one point by suffocating Mox with a plastic bag. It wasn’t just fun for me; Mox looked like he was having the time of his life, which made it even more enjoyable. – 4.25/5
–IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Will Ospreay vs. Hiromu Takhashi – This was the match I was most looking forward to and it did not disappoint. I adore Hiromu and Ospreay is clearly one of the best in the world right now. There were plenty of high spots, but the storytelling in the ring was one of the best I’ve seen from junior heavyweights in a long time. Please do yourself a favor and watch this match. I’m gonna pull a Meltzer and break the scale and I don’t even care. – 5.25/5
–IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Jay White vs Tetsuya Naito – This match kinda drew the short stick. On another night, this could’ve been match of the night. Unfortunately, it was sandwiched between two match of the year candidates. Both competitors brought their A-games and told a great story, but it paled in comparison to what came before and after it. – 4.75/5
–IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada vs Kota Ibushi – It feels like I’m taking a cop-out with this one, but there really are no words to describe this match. Everything I can think of to say feels like I’m doing it a disservice. As good as Kenny vs. Okada was, Kota vs. Okada blew it out of the water. Drop everything you’re doing right this second and go watch this match. – 10/5
Overall = 4/5 Bibles.
We’ll have the Night 2 review for you tomorrow!