What a morning! After the sheer greatness that was the ending of Wrestle Kingdom 14‘s Night 1, I was expecting to catch my breath with Night 2. Nuh-uh. Once the pre-show ended, WK14 stepped on the gas and didn’t let up— not even after the last match was over. Thanks to this show, I’m even more hype about seeing NJPW live in a few weeks!
–NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Championship – Gauntlet Match: Taguchi Japan vs. Bullet Club vs. LIJ vs. CHAOS vs. Suzuki-gun – If there’s anything that main roster WWE has been doing better than NJPW, it’s gauntlet matches. This preshow match was the longest 23 minutes of the weekend. Nothing of note happened here and I honestly keep forgetting the 6-Man tag belts are a thing that exists. Maybe they’ll actually get defended now that they’re in the hands of LIJ? – 1.5/5
-Jushin Thunder Liger & Naoki Sano vs. Hiromu Takahashi & Ryu (aka Dragon) Lee – This match was so fun, but bittersweet since it was the last time that we’ll see Liger wrestle. It was well-paced and Liger trading shots with Hiromu is something that I didn’t know that I needed, but I’m so glad I got to see it. It’s simply amazing that even after 31 years, Liger is still able to maintain that kind of agility, strength and flexibility. Hiromu and Lee showing respect at the end even brought a tear to ya girl’s eye. This is probably a bit higher than most would rate the actual match, but the emotion got me. – 3/5
–IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Championship: Roppongi 3K vs. El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori – They had me at the entrance video of a holographic Rocky Romero coming out of an Apple Watch before RPG 3K turned into motorcycles. This match was action from start to finish, befitting a grudge match as Bullet Club had straight up stolen RPG 3K’s Jr. Tag League trophies months ago (adding insult to injury as they had already taken the tag titles from them). It had everything, including a Styles Clash from ELP that earned a huge pop from the crowd. – 3.5/5
–Revolution Pro British Heavyweight Championship: Zack Sabre, Jr. vs. SANADA – Going in, I thought this was a submission match. Turns out I was mistaken, but they sure treated like it was, with SANADA going for the Paradise Lock early on and ZSJ pulling out one of his own many submissions. Stiff strikes and back-and-forths colored this match. If you prefer your modern wrestling to be a showcase of technical prowess, this is what you want to see. It did feel slightly disappointing to end on a pinfall when the two competitors have spent all their promo time talking about how they were going to make the other tap. Still a damn good match, though. – 4/5
–IWGP US Championship: Jon Moxley vs. Juice Robinson – From a technical masterclass to a straight-up brawl. Most of the commentary was spent talking about their history in NXT (or “Florida” as Kevin Kelly kept referring to it as), trying to hype the match up as a long-standing rivalry. Mox didn’t even make into the ring before Juice flew at him, setting the stage for a hard-hitting fight. I’m talking chairs, headbutts—and after Mox called Juice a bitch—a slap. But the real story is what happened after the match—Mox vs. Suzuki. My body is ready. – 3.75/5
–NEVER Openweight Championship: KENTA vs. Hirooki Goto – Stiff. AF. That’s all I can say about this match. KENTA and Goto beat the holy hell out of each other. I found myself cringing at headbutts and some of those lariats from Goto had me in pain. KENTA has definitely found his confidence again since leaving WWE and it looks good on him. – 3.25/5
-Kota Ibushi vs. Jay White – This match was basically a consolation match to determine who got a shot of the winner of the main event, and it was another vicious one. Switchblade took Ibushi out early, knocking him off the apron (the hardest part of the ring) and into the barrier, setting the tone for the rest of the bout. This. Was. A. War. Gedo interfered while the ref was down, hitting Ibushi with a chair across the back, but he felt nothing and instead Gedo got punched for his trouble. It took a chair, brass knuckles, a Bloody Sunday and a Blade Runner to put Ibushi down. Simply incredible. – 4.5/5
-Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Chris Jericho – This “special singles match” had the stipulation that if Tana won, he’d get a crack at Le Champion’s AEW title. Commentary pointed out that this was the first time the Ace hadn’t wrestled on January 4th since 2003. This was a great old school bout with excellent storytelling and character work. I popped hard for Jericho cinching in the real Lion Tamer for the win. – 4/5
Double Gold Dash: Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito – The longest of long-term booking, this match was great, but the story made it amazing. Okada looked like a god and Naito came ready to knock him back to Earth. The highlights of the match for me were Naito’s Poison RANA and when he finally hit the Stardust Press. That was when I knew it was finally his time. And when the match was finally over, after Naito had been crowned the first ever double-champion, KENTA became the most hated man in wrestling. After his blindsiding attack, he relished in the boos; he drank in the boos like he was Jericho with a little bit of the bubbly. I haven’t yet decided how I feel about the ending—whether it added to or hurt the fantastic bout before it—but I do know it was the second-best match of the weekend. – 5.25/5
Overall = 3.5-3.75/5 Bibles.