Wrestle Kingdom II Retrospective

Written by Roger MalcolmNew_Japan_Pro_Wrestling_Logo_by_MajinKhaN

So I decided to watch Wrestle Kingdom II after reading about Prince Devitt officially announcing his resignation from New Japan Pro Wrestling.  It was the first event I watched of New Japan Pro Wrestling and the first time watching Devitt wrestle as he participated in the opening match.  It was a six-man tag with Milano Collection A.T. and Minoru against A.J. Styles, Petey Williams and Christian.  The event featured many TNA wrestlers.  TNA even released a DVD they dubbed “Global Impact” using each match consisting of TNA wrestlers which was 6 out of the 10 on the card.  I’m however watching the proper version in Japanese and not having to endure TNA’s commentary.  Also, I am treated to 4 extra matches that are…well I’ll talk about them later.

The main event to this Kingdom show just happened to have been repeated at 2014’s Wrestle Kingdom 8.  It also once happened as well at Toukon Festival: Wrestling World 2005, the Jan 4th show before it was renamed Wrestle Kingdom.  It is what I refer to as the Black Swan/White Swan rivalry/feud.  King of Strong Style Shinsuke Nakamura and 100 Nen ni 1 Nin no Itsuzai (That’s Japanese for Once in a Century Talent.)  Hiroshi Tanahashi.  Nakamura is my favorite pro-wrestler as of now.  He took that title some years back.  I won’t even try to explain why, just watch him.  Tanahashi is considered the Ace of the Universe.  I recently watched a NJPW show Road to Dontaku where Tanahashi repeatedly walked around the outside of the ring greeting and hugging fans for what seemed like forever.  The people really seem to love him.  He’s a big star for sure.  Rivalry of the century, indeed.

As for the matches:

1-  Christian Cage, A.J. Styles and Petey Williams vs. Milano Collection A.T., Minoru and Prince Devitt.
This match introduced me to not only Devitt but Milano Collection A.T.  Unfortunately, Milano Collection A.T. retired in 2010.   He had an invisible dog on a leash and I must say I enjoyed the gimmick.  Devitt gives the Instant Classic Christian an airplane spin which makes himself quite dizzy.  As Christian receives punches for being in the wrong corner, Devitt regains his composure and delivers a nice elbow, sending Christian to the ground.  Devitt also has a nice dive over the ref and top rope onto Petey Williams and Christian, followed up by A.J. Styles back-flipping over too.  Petey Williams treats the Japanese audience to his Canadian Destroyer on Prince Devitt and A.J. Styles hits the Styles Clash on Milano Collection A.T.  Solid match, I give it 3/5 for really good.  (10:25)

2- Christopher Daniels challenged Wataru Inoue for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship  (1st defense)
I recently watched Inoue’s Retirement show with matches dedicated to him since he could not participate in any of the matches.  That is besides a little bit during the Blue Justice/Suzuki-gun match.  I don’t feel I ever got to know him well enough, unfortunately.  However, I am a fan of The Fallen Angel Christopher Daniels.  I like the spot where Inoue is chopping Daniels on the outside of the ring up against the ringpost.  Daniels ducks and Inoue chops the post; this gives Daniels the opportunity to lift Inoue and ram his ribs into the post.  Nice spot.  Daniels continues to attack his ribs, concentrating very precisely.  Daniels incorporates some dirty tactics at one point by grabbing the top rope for leverage while executing an abdominal stretch.  Daniels even endures many chops to the chest before gaining the advantage by simply poking Inoue in the eyes.  There isn’t any honour in that, now is there?  Another really good match 3/5.  (10:17)

3-  Manabu Nakanishi vs. Abyss
Abyss is a monster.  I’ve been a big fan of Nakanishi since a six-man tag tournament around 2010, I do believe.  He just really stood out in one match.  I’ve been a fan ever since.  He suffered a spinal cord injury and I feared he’d no longer wrestle but he came back.  This match is just two big men battling.  At one point they tease Abyss bodyslamming Nakanishi onto thumbtacks on the entrance ramp.  Thumbtacks in the hand – damn, that’s sick shit.  Got to have the right mindset for that.  Nakanishi is a beast and delivers a pretty sick belly-to-back suplex on Abyss.  The crowd loves and appreciates it.  So he gives Abyss another.  It’s a good match 2/5.  (6:00)

4-  Masato Tanaka, Tatsuhito Takaiwa, Yutaka Yoshie and Katsushi Takemura vs. Takashi Iizuka, Koji Kanemoto, Tiger Mask and Ryusuke Taguchi
Tiger Mask has some good offense – and defense, for that matter – early on.  I struggle to recognize Takashi Iizuka as this was before his heel turn where he shaved his head; he’s still a bad-ass, just looks more insane nowadays.  He comes across very strong, so all 4 of his opponents group up and take turns destroying him.  Kanemoto makes the hot tag to a supporting crowd that’s very vocal.  Taguchi delivers a surprising belly-to-back suplex on 330lb Yoshie.  2/5 for another good match.  (8:36)

5-  Team 3D (Bully Ray & D-Von) vs. R&R (Togi Makabe & Toru Yano)
This is a tag team that no longer exists.  Makabe is a strong face currently, even having recently named a team with Hiroshi Tanahashi called King Ace – a role I really enjoy but this team is enjoyable to watch as well.  I have had the honour of being told to “shut up” in person by Toru Yano in Philadelphia after chanting his name when he walked around the outside of the ring.  D-Von and Makabe match strength for awhile.  At one point Ol’ Bully Ray steps into the ring and demands “YANO!”  So in steps Yano, the two big guys battle until the hardcore rules start to really surface.  Soon weapons are deployed such as the hammer for the ring bell.  These dirty heels undo the turnbuckle pad using it as a weapon against D-Von, and Yano even chokes him with his wrist tape.  Bully gets the hot tag, hitting two big belly-to-back suplexes on Makabe, then Yano.  A ladder is brought into the ring by D-Von.  Bully cleans up with it.  “Get the table!”  It’s a long skinny table because it’s Japanese.  So, I’m sure many might find humour in that.  Yano gets powerbombed through the table.  3D on Makabe.  2/5 – It’s a good match.  (13:12)

6-  Tatsumi Fujinami, Riki Chōshū, Masahiro Chono, Jushin Liger and Akira vs. Jado, Gedo, Taru, Shuji Kondo and “brother” Yasshi
Basically, legends enter the ring and clean house.  Akira recieves most of the offense from the heel team, until he tags in a 54-year-old Fujinami, who comes in and kicks ass.  Then Chono is tagged in, which leads to double-spike piledrivers.  Fujinami and Chōshū take to the turnbuckles and Chono and Liger lift separate opponents, though the camera doesn’t show Liger and Fujinami as the moves are performed, only concentrating on Chono and Chōshū.  Chōshū delivers his signature lariat.  It’s a good match, 2/5.  (7:18)

7-  Hirooki Goto vs. The Great Muta
Goto attacks Muta on the entrance ramp before the match begins, turning the start into a brawl around ringside.  Goto breaks the spear he carries into three pieces on Muta’s body.  He then chokes Muta out with the spear-ended piece for added suspense.  Goto ascends to the outside of the mat and prepares to leap onto Muta with the spear.  As Goto leaps, Muta sprays his signature green mist into the face and eyes of Goto, sending him to the floor.  Muta finds a ladder under the ring and puts it to Goto.  Muta digs the end of the spear into Goto’s head as the press swarms around for a good shot, preventing the camera man from attaining one himself.  Bleeding and covered in green mist, Goto looks a lot like the Great Kabuki.  Perhaps NJPW should paint Goto green like The Amazon from Pro Wrestling on NES.  Maybe they should do a Masato Masuda Pro Wrestling tribute show where they hold a one-night tournament where 7 wrestlers dress up as Fighter Hayabusa, Star Man, Kin Korn Karn, Giant Panther, King Slender, The Amazon and Great Puma.  Fans would enjoy that.  Shining Wizard by Muta and a back and forth battle wages.  Full of theatrics, the match is entertaining as Muta performs a second Shining Wizard after no-selling, then hits Goto with the green mist again.  Two more Shining Wizards are delivered.  Moonsault from The Great Muta!  2/5 – It’s a good match.  (13:04)

8-  The Steiner Brothers challenged Travis Tomko and Giant Bernard for the IWGP Tag Team Championship  (5th defense)
Jeff Jarrett is introduced as the TNA founder and comes out in a suit.  He uses a female translator to tell the crowd TNA is the greatest pro wrestling company in the world – to which they respond with slight disgust.  Tomko and Scott start it off.  Tomko delivers a nice boot to the face on Scott which leads to a belly-to-belly suplex by Scott on Tomko.  Both tag out.  Bernard out-muscles Rick until Rick catches him in a headlock.  Bernard is sent over the ropes leading Rick to run around barking, as Scott takes his signature position in the middle of the ring for Rick to crawl underneath his legs.  Scott places his hands on Rick’s shoulders as they taunt Tomko and Bernard to enter the ring.  Eventually Bernard gets the advantage on Rick, which he hands over to Tomko.  Only, Scott sends Tomko into the outside railing, shifting the momentum back to the Steiners as they work over Tomko.  Leave it up to Scott to botch the Irish whip into the ropes.  Toru Yano and Togi Makabe are shown sitting ringside observing the match to see who they will be challenging at New Japan Ism February 17th, 2008.  Bernard dominates and nearly misses connecting on the double team move with Tomko’s assistance.  Scott evens the playing field with a double clothesline on Bernard and Tomko.  Scott hits a Frankensteiner on Tomko.  Bernard with the save.  An ugly lift on Bernard by Scott drops the Giant on his face.  Bernard shoves Jeff Jarrett on the outside of the ring.  Jarrett enters the ring with a guitar and ends up delivering it to Yano as he attempts to prevent the interference.  A little messy but I give it 3/5 for a really good match.  (12:50)

9-  Yuji Nagata challenged Kurt Angle for the IWGP Third Belt Championship (3rd defense)
This is the match that made me a Japanese pro wrestling fan.  I felt it was superior to most matches I’d ever watched up to that point in my life.  I didn’t know Yuji Nagata, and I may have even seen him during a WCW show or something but never recalled him.  A part of me wants to believe I’d remember every wrestler and match I’ve watched but that’s just not so.  The athleticism and intensity in this match was unbelievable to me.  Kurt is easily one of the best ever and Nagata is just as good as the match gets started with Angle taking the advantage slyly.  Yuji fights back only to be belly-to-belly suplexed.  Angle looks near his prime if that’s possible.  Nagata returns the belly-to-belly suplex on Angle where Angle exits the ring for a breather.  Chain wrestling down onto the mat sees Nagata gain an advantage with a headlock.  Angle breaks to the outside for another breather.  Many missed opportunities leads to an Angle belly-to-belly suplex on Nagata before Angle is back under Nagata’s methodical control.

Angle spears Nagata’s leg, sending him to the outside for Angle to target further as he brings him back in.  Angle fully concentrates on Nagata’s leg, slowly wearing him down.  A figure-four leg lock is applied with Angle preventing Nagata from nearly reversing three times, generating much energy from the crowd.  Nagata eventually reaches the ropes for the break.  Angle continues working the leg until Nagata gets him into a seated armbar.  Angle struggles as Nagata’s eyes roll into the back of his head as he lifts back on Angle’s arm.  Angle gets a foot on the ropes.  Nagata now takes his turn targeting Angle’s arm with strikes, kicks, and joint holds.  Angle sells as he’s Irish whipped into the corner, he sidesteps around a running Nagata executing three bridging belly-to-back suplexes.  Angle goes for the Olympic Slam, only Nagata pushes off and hits a suplex of his own.  Nagata executes two consecutive brainbusters on Angle.  Angle goes for the Ankle Lock but Nagata gets him in a Nagata Lock II crossface until Angle escapes, applying the Ankle Lock.

Nagata gets out putting Angle back into a crossface.  A back-and-forth battle ensues as each attempts to place the other in their respective signature locks.  Angle hits an Olympic Slam and attempts a moonsault, which sends him crashing to the mat as Nagata rolls out of the way.  Angle receives a running knee to the skull that sends him to his knees.  Nagata places Angle on the turnbuckle and performs an overhead belly-to-belly suplex sending him crashing down to the mat.  Nagata goes for the scissor armbar crossface again in the center of the ring.  He transitions into placing Angle’s loose arm under his own as he reaches around Angle’s neck, stretching back.  The two exchange strikes back and forth until Nagata hits the ropes, hitting Angle with a running boot and causing Angle to hit the ropes, returning with a clothesline and sending Nagata to the mat.  Nagata hits a suplex, getting a near pinfall.  Angle catches Nagata in the Ankle Lock.  Nagata struggles for awhile, eventually tapping the mat vigorously.  Angle and Nagata show each other much respect after the bout.  An easy 4/5 for a great match.  (18:29)

10-  Shinsuke Nakamura challenged Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship  (2nd defense)
Of course I know I’m overselling this rivalry to most but it’s the second meeting for these two in the Main Event at a January 4th Tokyo Dome Show.  Tanahashi is in black tights and Nakamura in red tights.  This Nakamura is a lot calmer than the one nowadays.  The opening tie-up ends in the ropes, where Tanahashi smiles after he takes a cheap shot at Nakamura.  A spell of chain wrestling leads to the mat but quickly both return to their feet, as the crowd shows their appreciation in applause.  Reversal after reversal leads to an armbar by Nakamura on Tanahashi.  Tanahashi makes it to the ropes and exits the ring for a break.  He re-enters the ring, gaining the advantage and goes with Nakamura over the top rope with a clothesline, where Tanahashi holds the rope as he skins the cat back into the ring.  Nakamura takes a breather himself.  Tanahashi starts to target Nakamura’s leg, working it over with Dragon Screw Legwhips, dropkicks and holds.

Nakamura hits a moonsault and attempts a second where Tanahashi moves.  Nakamura is able to land on his feet though his leg buckles some, showing its fatigue.  This gives Tanahashi the oppurtunity to attack the leg directly with another drop kick.  Tanahashi delivers a mess of smacks to the face as Nakamura endures the punishment until finally firing alternating shots back.  Tanahashi hits 2 belly-to-back suplexes.  Nakamura reverses, hitting two of his own.  Tanahashi hits another only for Nakamura to hit one as well.  Tanahashi gets another one and as he goes for another Nakamura delivers some elbows, getting around to deliver yet another belly-to-back suplex.    Both lay on the mat for a breather.  Nakamura makes his way to his feet, he calls out a warrior’s cry and hits the ropes, only for Tanahashi to hit his signature Sling Blade.  Both take their time coming back up to their feet.  Short slapping battle ends up with Nakamura hitting a double underhook piledriver!  Tanahashi blocks a clothesline attempt, sending Nakamura down to the mat in pain holding his arm. The ref comes in to check and Tanahashi sneaks an attack in, continuing the bout.  Nakamura is asked by an outside official if he wants to quit and he refuses, as Tanahashi lifts him onto the turnbuckle.  Tanahashi hits a suplex off the top turnbuckle.  Tanahashi has a clear advantage as he unloads kick after kick on a downed Nakamura.  Tanahashi delivers a Dragon Screw to Nakamura’s arm, sending his face into the mat.  Armbar by Tanahashi, and Nakamura escapes into the ropes as more officials check him.  Nakamura’s arm is further targeted, then a Dragon Suplex, Full-nelson slam and a High Fly Flow, all by Tanahashi.  Nakamura kicks out of the pin and writhes in pain on the mat.

Tanahashi attempts a second High Fly Flow, only to catch Nakamura’s knees in his ribs.  Nakamura catches a Flying Cross Armbar but isn’t able to sink it in before Tanahashi fights out of it, only to end up in a Triangle Choke.  This leads back into another close armbar before Tanahashi kicks out of it.  Nakamura hits a belly-to-back suplex and then his signature Landslide a Samoan driver.  Only, Tanahashi kicks out.  Nakamura goes for what seems to be another Landslide only for Tanahashi to reverse, hitting another Sling Blade!  Tanahashi rises and shouts, hits the ropes and executes another Sling Blade!  Nakamura kicks out of the pin!  Nakamura reverses and performs a Dragon Suplex Hold.  Tanahashi kicks out of it.  Tanahashi gets a close call for a pin, then hits a Double Underhook Suplex but isn’t able to get the 1, 2, 3.  Nakamura holds onto Tanahashi’s leg.  A stomping gets Tanahashi on the turnbuckle, where he’s caught by Nakamura.  They each trade blows back and forth.  Nakamura hits a Landslide off the turnbuckle.  He picks Tanahashi up and hits another Landslide in the middle of the ring.  Another great match for a 4/5.  (23:08)

Kurt Angle accompanied by Jeff Jarrett enters the ring to challenge Shinsuke Nakmura at New Japan Ism on February 17th, 2008.

This is an excellent show overall even though my average match rating for the show is only 2.7.  As this is the first pro wrestling card I have reviewed and given ratings for matches, I have enough trouble rating each match separately that I don’t really know how to approach rating the show on a scale.  So I just highly recommend Wrestle Kingdom II at Tokyo Dome.  It was a great introduction to the company and style for me.

I forgot to time the matches myself which is something I had actually been looking forward to.  So I used my favorite website on the internet Strong Style Spirit for the information.  It’s NJPW results in English with title histories and archives of past shows.

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