1/4 Powell's NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 9 results and review: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, A.J. Styles vs. Tetsuya Naito, Red Dragon vs. The Time Splitters vs. The Young Bucks vs. Forever Hooligans
Please note that this review was written duirng the live broadcast, so don't scroll too far down the page if you are watchng the replay and want to avoid spoilers.
By Jason Powell
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New Japan Pro Wrestling Wrestle Kingdom 9
Aired live on pay-per-view
Tokyo, Japan at the Tokyo Dome
In a pre pay-per-view match, Yuji Nagata won the 15-Man New Japan Rumble. Check out Zack Zimmerman's rundown of the match in a separate report on the main page...
The pay-per-view event opened with a video featuring Japanese narration, surely leading to at least half the pay-per-view audience checking their SAP options...
Jim Ross welcomed viewers to the event and said it's a history making night because it's the first time that the "WrestleMania of Japan" is available worldwide. Matt Striker checked in and said it gave him chills to hear Ross on the call again...
1. Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly vs. Alex Koslov and Rocky Romero vs. The Young Bucks vs. Alex Shelley and Kushida in a four-way for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Titles. The entrances were done rapid fire style until the Time Splitters (Shelley and Kushida). Striker came armed with facts on the various teams. Red Dragon (Fish and O'Reilly) wore their IWGP and ROH Tag Titles to the ring and the broadcast team mentioned Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla during the entrances.
Powell's POV: Some readers have reported issues with the Flipps app feed for the show, which is a real shame. The pay-per-view broadcast is fantastic. It looks great, the ring is mic'd really well, and the mix with the broadcast team is perfect. The stage is impressive. I have no intention of trying to keep up with the move-by-move tonight. I'll hit the highlights and offer the usual commentary.
Matt Jackson delivered a "suck it" and a crotch chop. Normally, I'd assume it's a tribute to DX, but after Saturday's UFC show it could be a tribute to Jon "Bones" Jones. Okay, probably not the latter. At 7:40, O'Reilly ran off the ring apron and jumped at Shelley, who drilled him with a superkick on the floor. Big dive time, as various wrestlers took turns performing dives onto opponents on the floor.
The Time Splitters hit Out of Time on one o the Bucks for a two count around 9:00. Ross said anyone who thinks the smaller wrestlers aren't entertaining is missing something. Nick Jackson connected with a superkick. "Are we getting ready to have a superkick party?" Ross asked. There was a great double Doomsday spot on the Bucks, who both landed on their feet and then threw superkicks.
The Bucks hit the Meltzer Driver for what should have been a three count, but the referee paused while waiting for the other teams to break it up. Red Dragon had a good run of offense using running charges into the corner and tag moves that impressed the crowd. They hit Chasing the Dragon on Romero and pinned him to win the match...
Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly beat Alex Koslov & Rocky Romero, The Young Bucks, Alex Shelley & Kushida in a four-way to retain the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Titles in 13:02.
Powell's POV: A fun spot fest opener. Red Dragon really stood out at the end, as they should have since they were going over. I wasn't as blown away by the match as I expected to be given the teams involved, but it was still entertaining. They aren't wasting any time, as Red Dragon didn't even make it backstage before Jeff Jarrett's music hit for the next match. That's frustrating in a way, yet actually encouraging, as there was some legitimate concern going in that the event could run over pay-per-view time if NJPW officials weren't cautious.
2. Jeff Jarrett (w/Karen Jarrett, Scott D'Amore), Yojiro Takahashi, and Bad Luck Fale vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, and Tomoaki Honma. Karen shoved Honma before the match. Ross noted that the crowd loved Honma. Striker explained that it's all about the fighting spirit in Japan.
Jarrett tried to use his Bullet Club guitar on Honma. He accidentally hit his own partner when Honma moved. A short time later, Honma hit a top rope headbutt on Takahashi for the win. Ross said Honma was the last man he would have expected to win the match. Striker said the Bullet Club are 0-2 on the night. The NJPW trio slapped hands with fans on their way backstage...
Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, and Tomoaki Honma beat Jeff Jarrett, Yojiro Takahashi, and Bad Luck Fale in 5:35.
Powell's POV: Quick and painless. Honma was as over with the crowd as the announcers said. They loved the guy. The winners had a little more time after the match to play to the fans but not much. They are wasting no time between matches. Hopefully things won't feel so rushed once we get into the bigger matches.
3. Naomichi Marufuji, Mikey Nicholls, Shane Haste, and Toru Yano vs. Davey Boy Smith Jr., Lance Archer, Shelton Benjamin, and Takashi Iizuka in an eight-man tag. The video wall for Yano's team was great if not seizure inducing. Benjamin performed his leap to the top and suplex on Marufuji at 4:20.
Marufuji hit a great jumping knee on Izuka and followed up with a knee lift to get the win. Ross said he got the feeling that the issue wasn't resolved between the Pro Wrestling Noah winners and their New Japan opponents...
Naomichi Marufuji, Mikey Nicholls, Shane Haste, and Toru Yano beat Davey Boy Smith Jr., Lance Archer, Shelton Benjamin, and Takashi Iizuka in 5:20.
Powell's POV: Another rushed match. The match seemed designed to get everyone a quick spot to shine and little more. The Noah wrestlers got more post-match celebration time than anyone else thus far. The broadcast team is doing fine, but I am looking forward to a match that Ross can sink his teeth into. Striker is armed with tons of factoids. He sounds prepared, though some of you NJPW buffs are much more likely to notice if one of his factoids is erroneous than I am.
4. Minoru Suzuki vs. Kazushi Sakuraba. The match can only end in a submission or a knockout. The broadcast team played up Suzuki is sadistic and that he was trained by Billy Robinson. They also played up Sakuraba's MMA history and noted that he beat Royce Gracie. After some early mat work, they took the match to the long entrance ramp, where Suzuki applied a wrist lock. The referee ordered Suzuki to break the hold, as the announcers explained that the match must be won in the ring.
Suzuki held his arm in pain and was led back to the ring by the referee. Once in the ring, Sakuraba connected with several kicks to the chest and back. Suzuki was facing down when the referee backed up Sakuraba and counted, but Suzuki got up. Sakuraba threw more shots, but Suzuki dodged one and connected with his own. Sakuraba came right back with the cross arm breaker, which Suzuki eventually broke by reaching the ropes at 7;30.
Suzuki got up and no-sold some shots and called for more. They traded shots in the middle of the ring. Suzuki caught Sakuraba going for a kick and then threw a series of strikes of his own and caught Sakuraba with a rear naked choke. The referee called for the bell as Striker said Sakuraba was out. Sakuraba had his left arm wrapped in ice afterward. Sakuraba offered his hand and Suzuki accepted. Suzuki unwrapped his arm afterward, yet continued to sell the arm...
Minoru Suzuki defeated Kazushi Sakuraba in 9:20.
Powell's POV: It was nice to get a change of pace from the tag matches and the crowd was receptive. I like the story that was told with Sakuraba dominating only to have Suzuki come back late. Ross called it one of the most unique matches he's ever called. Ross was into the MMA history of both men. He also acknowledged the fast pace of the show and said he really liked that NJPW and Global Force Wrestling were taking with the show.
5. Tomohiro Ishii vs. Togi Makabe for the NEVER Openweight Championship. Striker noted that the title is open to all weights. Makabe entered to a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" and Ross compared his style to that of Bruiser Brody. The announcers set the stage for a physical match. Ishii had his shoulder heavily taped. Ross said the shoulder has required surgery since a match with Davey Boy Smith Jr. that was held in August.
Ishii no-sold some Makabe punches. Striker had a stupid line about how the strong style is the answer to the question about whether pro wrestling is real. Ishii performed a powerbomb for a two count at 5:00. Makabe came back with a great clothesline and followed up with a powerbomb for two.
Makabe threw a wicked suplex that dropped Ishii on his bad shoulder. There was a replay of the move and the broadcast team noted the strategy. Makabe caught Ishii with a big clothesline for two, then took a suplex from Ishii for another near fall. Makabe got a great near fall off a dragon suplex at 10:40.
Ross mistakenly dropped a King Kong Bundy reference when he meant to say Bruiser or King Kong Brody. Striker helped him out and spoke about how great it was to hear Ross having fun and doing what he was born to do. Late in the match, Makabe connected on a stiff clothesline and got a two count. He followed up with a knee drop off the top rope and got the pin. Striker put over the title change as a major happening.
Togi Makabe beat Tomohiro Ishii in 12:25 to win the NEVER Openweight Championship.
Powell's POV: Striker was trying to get over the physicality of the strong style when he dropped the line about it being the answer to the question of whether pro wrestling his real. It's just a worthless thing to bring up. Anyone who actually paid for the show doesn't care about whether it's real. They want to suspend their disbelief and enjoy the show, and a line like that just takes you out of the moment. Anyway, the match was obviously very physical and the crowd was responsive. This was the highlight of the night for me thus far.
A New Japan 2015 video package aired with a Japanese narrator...
6. Tyusuke Taguchi vs. Kenny Omega (w/The Young Bucks) for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship. Ross compared Omega to Bryan Pillman and noted that he's a member of The Bullet Club. Taguchi had "Funky Weapon" on the back of his tights and used his butt as a weapon by ramming Omega with it a few times.
The Bucks distracted the referee while Omega sprayed cold spray into the face of Taguchi. Omega then sprayed his arm pit and crotch with the spray. Later, Taguchi backdropped Omega onto the Bucks, then he performed a flip over the top rope onto all three men on the floor. Taguchi was on the offensive until Omega caught him with a dropkick as Taguchi was coming off the top rope.
Omega threw a great gut wrench powerbomb for a two count. Taguchi came back and applied the ankle lock at 11:45. One of the Bucks grabbed Taguchi from behind. Omega charged at Taguchi, who moved, causing the Buck to be knocked off the apron. Omega came back with as wicked a suplex as you'll see and hit the electric chair into a driver for the win...
Kenny Omega beat Tyusuke Taguchi to win the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship in 12:25.
Powell's POV: Great finishing sequence from Omega. I'm not sure what he's going for with his character, as it's tough to get a feel for it without hearing his promos. I'm not big on all the outside interference because it's just not what I was hoping for out of NJPW, but the Bucks did it well and you certainly can't argue with the success of the Bullet Club.
7. Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson (w/Tama Tonga, The Bullet Babe) vs. Hirooki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata for the IWGP Tag Team Championship. Gallows had his face painted. Striker noted that Anderson and Goto were tag champions at one time. Striker worked in a plug for the Talking Shop podcast, then Ross mentioned that he'll have TNA's Dixie Carter on his podcast this week. Striker noted that Tama is the son of Haku. Ross said the challengers had a reputation for not being able to win the big one. He said that would change if they won this match. Anderson and Gallows teamed up for a version of the Demolition finisher minus the second rope leap for a two count. They followed up with a suplex neck breaker combo for a two count. Ross said it was a long two count and he was right.
Gallows went for an RKO, but it was blocked. The crowd came to life for the challengers, but Gallows was there to cut them off with a clothesline. Goto and Shibata caught Gallows on the ropes and double pressed him. He fought them off, but Goto caught him with a clothesline and then Shibata locked him in the sleeper temporarily. Shibata caught Gallows with a couple of big kicks and pinned him clean...
Hirooki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata beat Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson to win the IWGP Tag Titles in 9:20.
Powell's POV: I love Gallows and Anderson as a badass tag team. The broadcast team did a nice job of telling the story of Goto and Shibata being longtime friends who won the big one together. Ross really drove that home after they won the match. A really good tag match. The finish caught me by surprise because I'm not familiar with Shibata's big kicks, but I really loved some of the power moves that led to Gallows and Anderson getting believable near falls.
8. A.J. Styles vs. Tetsuya Naito. Ross said Styles is one of the most controversial individuals in pro wrestling, especially in Japan. Striker played up the danger of the Styles Clash. Ross said Styles has broken the necks of two of his peers. He said there's a lot of controversy as to whether the move should be barred.
Styles attacked Naito to start the match. He set up for the Styles Clash, but Naito fought him off. Styles went for the move again. Naito fought him off again. Styles knocked Naito to the floor and went or a Pele Kick, but Naito moved and Styles landed on his feet. Naito caught him with a running dropkick off the ring apron.
Powell's POV: As frantic as the first hour of the show was, there are now just under two hours remaining for the big three matches. This should be special.
Back in the ring, Naito followed up with a missile dropkick and a running dropkick. However, Styles grabbed his leg and wrenched it, then hit it with repeated elbows. Ross gave Styles credit for putting TNA on the map. At 6:30, Styles came back with his great springboard elbow to the face of Naito. Later, Styles applied the Calf Killer. The crowd rallied behind Naito, who eventually reached the ropes to break the hold.
Naito came back with a dragon suplex for a two count. Styles responded with a Pele Kick a short time later and then performed a brainbuster, which Striker said was an homage to Fergal Devitt. Styles set up for the Styles Clash, but Naito was able to dump him awkwardly over the top rope and to the floor. Naito went for a huracanrana off the ropes, but Styles blocked it and hit the Styles Clash off the second rope and pinned him clean...
A.J. Styles defeated Tetsuya Naito in 14:30.
Powell's POV: A hell of a match. Best of the night thus far. I've made it clear that I'm not big on Styles using the Styles Clash finisher given the injuries that some of his opponents have suffered. And while there's a strong argument to be made that it's sleazy to use the move's negative history, I'm going to put that aside and focus on the fact that it worked like a charm. The broadcast team played it up as being dangerous and controversial from the start, and Styles went for the move right out of the gate. They made it seem dangerous to begin with, so when he performed it off the second rope it felt even more dangerous. It's still fair to debate whether he should use it, but if he's going to continue to use the Styles Clash then they might as well go all the way with it as they did here.
A Shinsuke Nakamura and Kota Ibushi video package aired with Japanese narration...
9. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. Nakamura came out wearing a cape and crown. Ross compared him to being like Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson, yet said he's a badass. Striker said Nakamura is his favorite wrestler on the planet today. "We saw pageantry, we saw sizzle, and now we're about to see the steak," Ross said.
A few minutes in, Nakamura offered Ibushi and over the top handshake and then kneed in the gut. Ibushi went on the offensive and got cocky. Nakamura motioned him in and regained control, and hit him with a some big knee strikes. Ross said Nakamura was "sending a message to the young buck" as he remained the aggressor.
Nakamura no-sold after inviting Ibushi to throw shots at his chest, then slapped his face repeatedly. Ibushi fired up, but Nakamura spun him around and performed a backstabber. Nakamura went for a suplex, but Ibushi landed on his feet and followed up with a huracanrana. Ibushi knocked Nakamura to the floor and then performed a moonsault onto him at 7:50.
Ibushi went on a run and hit Nakamura with a vicious knee and a standing moonsault for a two count. Ibushi went for a sprinboard move and ate an awesome one-legged dropkick from Nakamura. A short time later, Ibushi performed a top rope huracanrana for a nice near fall. Ibushi performed an insane suplex and a standing corkscrew moonsault for another two count at 11:40. Wow.
Ibushi remained the aggressor with a side kick and a powerbomb for a two count. Ibushi went to the top rope and missed a wild twisting splash when Nakamura moved. Nakamura followed up with a great knee to Ibushi's head. Ross stressed that the Intercontinental Title is as sought after as the world championship in New Japan. He questioned why anyone would have a title that means less than the other titles.
Ibushi flashed a smile after taking some shots from Nakamura, then threw several punches. Ross noted that closed fists are rare in New Japan. Nakamura applied an arm bar. Ibushi got to his feet and stomped Nakamura's face until he released the hold. Ibushi threw a few kicks to the head, as Ross said he was mocking Nakamura and showing that he's not intimidated by him.
Ibushi caught Nakamura with an amazing running knee to the head and covered him, but Nakamura kicked out quick and strong. Striker said Ibushi is graduating to the heavyweight division and showing he an hang with the best. Nakamura came back with several kicks. "Ain't nothing about Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson in this attack, brother," Ross said.
Ibushi came back with a hard slap, Nakamura returned the favor. Nakamura ran the ropes, but Ibushi caught him with a wild double stomp. In an insane move, Ibushi stood on the top rope and pulled Nakamura over the top rope from the apron with a side suplex and covered him for two.
Ibushi went for a move, but Nakamura broke free with headbutts and elbows. Nakamura followed up with a great knee to the head from the second rope. A short time later, he performed his Boma Ye knee finisher and pinned him.
Afterward, Nakamura received the title, then put it down and spent a moment with Ibushi. Nakamura took the mic and spoke to the crowd in Japanese. Ross spoke about how happy he was to make the trip and what an honor it was to call a Nakamura match. He also stressed that Ibushi declined help and left under his own power...
Shinsuke Nakamura beat Kota Ibushi to retain the IWGP Intercontinental Championship in 19:55.
Powell's POV: Greatness. I loved this match. As good as the Styles vs. Naito match was, this was even better. The last two matches alone are more than worth the price of the pay-per-view if you are on the fence. Nakamura is the star, but Ibushi very impressive. I don't think Ross was laying it on thick. I think he was one hundred percent sincere with his post match praise.
A video package aired to set up the main event...
Kazuchika Okada had a great video wall and did a slow rise from under the stage. Ross marveled over the fact that Okada is only 27. Hiroshi Tanahashi had an amazing video wall, light show, and fire balls that shot up on the stage. Ross noted that this is the ninth Tokyo Dome main event, which is more than anyone in combat sports. Striker said it was a treat for the "mark in me" that Tanahashi asked Ross for a picture. Striker really wants you, the online fan, to like him...
10. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. There were side headlocks early. Okada backed Tanahashi into the corner, teased throwing a punch, tapped him on the chest a couple times, then took the shot. They traded forearm shots and European uppercuts. Ross noted that Tanahashi has a bad neck and back and his injuries have been well chronicled in the Japanese press.
They fought onto the entrance ramp. Tanahashi played air guitar before charging at Okada, who delivered a Death Valley Driver on the ramp. Okada took the match back to the ring and was the aggressor until Tanahashi avoided a senton splash. Tanahashi caught him with a running forearm, a body slam, and then flipped onto him from the second rope for a two count.
At 13:00, Okada was cocky as he slapped the head of Tanahashi and challenged him to throw forearms at him. Tanahashi did, but Okada responded with a big one that Tanahashi sold. They uppercuts in the ring and Okada got the better of it. Striker said it seemed as if Tanahashi was slow to get out of the box.
Powell's POV: That comment from Striker is what I wish we would have heard more of throughout the broadcast. He is enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the NJPW product, but I wish he would have spent more time getting caught up in the action and reacting to it than he has. More on his performance after the main event.
Later, Okada struck the Rainmaker pose, but Tanahashi recovered and caught him with a dragon screw leg whip. Tanahashi went to work the knee of Okada. They fought to ringside, where Tanahashi dodged a charging Okada, who tumbled over the guardrail. Tanahashi went to the top rope and dove onto Okada over the barricade.
Back in the ring, Okada went for the Tombstone, but Tanahashi reversed it and hit the move himself. Tanahashi followed up with a top rope splash to the back, then another while Okada was on his back. Tanahashi went for the cover, but Okada kicked out at the last moment. The IWGP Title was shown and Ross said that's what it's all about and labeled it the most prestigious title in New Japan.
Okada caught Tanahashi with an uppercut, but he fell back to his knees. Tanahashi caught Okada with a second sling blade of the match. Tanahashi mocked the Rainmaker pose. Okada recovered and hit Tanahashi with the Rainmaker. "We have a new champion right here," Ross said. Okada went for a cover and Tanahashi kicked out at the last moment.
Both men got to their knees and traded forearm shots. Ross said that if you see a pair of better back to back matches this year "I want to be there to see them with you, folks." Tanahashi and Okada traded uppercuts. Okada went for a tombstone, but Tanahashi slipped out and eventually rolled up Okada for another two count.
Tanahashi threw left hands to the head of Okada, who eventually dropped to his knees and grabbed Tanahashi's leg. Tanahashi went for another punch, but Okada slipped away and caught him in a backslide for a two count. Tanahashi came back with a suplex into a bridge for a two count. Okada responded with a German suplex for two. Tanahashi performed a German suplex for a two count.
Okada caught Tanahashi with what Ross called "the greatest dropkick in the world." Tanahashi performed a pair of dragon screw leg whips on Okada, then performed a cross body block onto Okada. Tanahashi performed another dragon screw leg whip, then went up top and performed a top rope splash. He went up top again and performed another top rope splash for the win...
Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Kazuchika Okada to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in 31:00.
Right after the match, Striker started thanking Ross and putting him over. Ross said he'll never be ashamed to say he's a wrestling fan. He questioned how you can forget where you were when you saw Tanahashi vs. Okada. Ross said their series is now 3-3-1. Ross compared it to memorable WWE matches he's called.
Okada left the ring and cried as he was helped to the back. Okada dropped to his knees and cried more as fans near him chanted his name. Tanahashi stood on the second rope and spoke to Okada in Japanese. It didn't seem like a moment of respect. Okada kept walking. Tanahashi then spoke to the fans. He teased leaving, then stuck around and played air guitar.
Striker paraphrased what Tanahashi said to Okada. Basically, it was that Okada is still a long way from being the ace of New Japan and that Tanahashi is still proud to be the man. Tanahashi played to the crowd on the stage. The pay-per-view broadcast stayed on the air way longer than it needed to for American viewers, as there were shots of the Japanese broadcast team without commentary...
Powell's POV: Another excellent match. What an amazing three matches to close the show. I love the Okada tears afterward. I'm not sure how much it plays into his character, but either way the emotion made the match and the event feel even more monumental. The first half of the night felt rushed and had too many tag matches, but it built very nicely to the big three matches at the end of the night. I'm amazed that this four-hour show that went until shortly before 5:00 a.m. my time flew by. It held my interest from start to finish and peaked in a very memorable way during the last 90 minutes.
It really was great to hear Jim Ross back on play-by-play. I wish Matt Striker wouldn't have felt the need to tell us that right after the main event concluded, but I thought they worked well together for the most part aside from my previous Striker critique. Striker felt overly enthusiastic to show his knowledge early on, but that knowledge definitely came in handy and I think their chemistry could only improve if they end up working together again on a future NJPW event. I don't know how Ross came off with NJPW diehards, but it came off to this NJPW novice like he did his homework and was as genuinely wowed by the action in the big matches as much as anyone. He may not have possessed the emotion that he had for some of his great WWE calls, but I think that's understandable considering he told those stories all year long about characters he was invested in. There were times when I found myself wishing Striker would shut up so Ross could do his thing, but overall they enhanced the show in their own ways.
As for ordering a replay if you didn't see the show, yes, absolutely. You can go into this show without knowing a thing about New Japan Pro Wrestling and I would be shocked if you didn't come away thrilled with your purchase. If you enjoy great pro wrestling, then you owe it to yourself to see this event.
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