So two weeks ago I gave some predictions for what I thought was going to happen at Wrestle Kingdom 12. With that show now in the record books, I decided to go back and see how I did prediction wise, as well as giving my thoughts on the show in general.
Overall, I thought the show was excellent. It might have been a shade less impressive that WK11, but it was still a really enjoyable event with every match on the main card being at least decent. The worst match from a quality perspective would have been the pre-show New Japan Rumble, but even that match still had some fun moments. I’d heavily recommend signing up to New Japan World and giving this show a goosy gander, because it really was brilliant.
What amazed me more than anything else was how a show at over 6 hours in length really didn’t drag at all. Some of the longer WrestleMania’s and Summer Slam’s from WWE in recent years have felt like Chinese water torture on occasion with all the filler matches and angles. However, this wasn’t an issue with WK12 as the show gradually built over the course of the 6 hours. I honestly think that WWE should consider mixing up their production; doing away with the cursed “come down match” that often plagues the latter stages of their big events.
New Japan has shown that you don’t need to have a throwaway match to give the crowd a chance to cool down. You can go from one big match straight to another without losing the audience if the matches are good enough and you create genuine stars instead of just pushing the “brand”. It could honestly help with how WWE’s major shows can often feel like such a drag.
I’ve seen some comments online from people who thought WK12 looked low rent and dingy when compared to a big WWE event. I really couldn’t see that at all and thought the Tokyo Dome looked fantastic. I guess some people are so used to WWE’s production that when they see someone presenting wrestling more like a sport instead of a TV show it can be jarring. Both interpretations come with their own positives and pitfalls of course, but I thought WK12 was a wonderful presentation in its own unique way.
So, let’s see how my predictions fared
The New Japan Rumble
Mikes Prediction – “I think Yuji Nagata wins this, just because the result really doesn’t matter and I think it will get a pop.”
Actual result – Masahito Kakihara
Sadly poor Nagata got stuck with the Curse of Mike and ended it up spending a very short amount of time in the ring before ending up on the wrong side of a WWF Wrestle Fest styled doggy pile and getting swiftly eliminated. The two highlights of this match were a cameo from the diminutive “Cheeseburger” from ROH and Kakihara’s feel good win at the end. Kakihara has been battling cancer, so it was lovely to see him pick up the victory, last eliminating Burger with the STO. It was also neat to hear the UWFi theme once again to register his victory.
So after one match I’m 0-1 on predictions
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles
Champions – Sho and Yo Vs Challengers – The Young Bucks
Mike’s Prediction – “I think the Champions retain here and The Young Bucks finally move up to heavyweight afterwards.”
Actual result – The Young Bucks
The Young Bucks have got a bit a reputation of just being “spot monkeys” who do flips at the expense of psychology and storytelling. Thus, this match was one in the eye for their detractors as they had a long match that told a good story (Whilst also working some obligatory flips in of course)
The match story centred mostly on Yo and Matt Jackson hurting their backs, leaving them struggling during the home stretch. Eventually, Matt was able to gut it out and force Yo to submit to the Sharpshooter, which paid off all of the back work in logical fashion. I wouldn’t call myself a huge Bucks fan, but over the years I’ve come to appreciate their act and it’s always nice to be reminded that they still have a traditional tag match in their locker that they can bust out on special occasions.
I still personally think the time is right to move The Bucks into the heavyweight tag ranks. Really, what more is left for them to do at junior heavyweight level? There’s no new teams on the horizon that they could work with, whereas if they moved to heavyweight there’s an immediate bunch of fresh matches for them.
Two matches in and two incorrect predictions. 0-2
NEVER Six Man Tag Team Title Gauntlet
Champions – Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa Vs Beretta, Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano Vs Michael Elgin and War Machine Vs Taichi, Takashi Iizuka and Zack Sabre Junior Vs Juice Robinson, Ryusuki Taguchi and Togi Makabe
Mike’s Prediction –“I think Taguchi Japan win this one actually, with Juice Robinson getting a big win over one of the Champions to give him a rub.”
Actual result – Beretta, Ishii and Yano
Hey, at least I correctly guessed that we’d have new champions right? This was probably the weakest match on the main card, but even so it didn’t drag and there was some nice work from Beretta, whilst Sabre got to put on a couple of wacky submissions as well. Ultimately CHAOS’ win turned out to be for nought as they lost the belts back the very next night. This was the “get as many people on the card as we can” match and, because it was on pretty early, it was ultimately quick inoffensive fun. It’s the sort of match that would be on just before the main event if it were on a WrestleMania.
Please tell me I’m going to get one right soon? 0-3
Cody Vs Kota Ibushi
Mike’s Prediction – “I think Ibushi wins this clean to set up a bout with Omega. I actually think it will be a very good match.”
Actual result – Kota Ibushi
Thank heavens! Omega and Ibushi were actually involved in an angle the following night as well, so I’m almost tempted to give myself a bonus point, but will refrain. Cody’s Americanised heel antics offset Ibushi’s high impact style nicely and it built into a very good match. The most terrifying spot was Cody giving Ibushi a Cross Rhodes off the apron to the floor, which was both delivered and taken exceptionally. Ibushi scoring a big win makes me think that he could potentially get himself a match with Okada at some point this year. If he wins the New Japan Cup tournament he could even get it as soon as May at the annual Dontaku event.
At least I’m back in the game now. 1-3
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championships
Champions – Lance Archer and Harry Smith Vs Challengers – EVIL and SANADA
Mike’s Prediction – “I think Los Ingobernables take the titles here with the Magic Killer, to keep their feud with Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa alive.”
Actual result – EVIL and SANADA
So I may have been wrong with the Magic Killer being the finish, but aside from that I got this one spot on. Eventually it was a beautiful SANADA moonsault that brought home the bacon for L-I-J, after both he and EVIL had taken a mighty shellacking from their big western foes. I really enjoyed this match and it was my favourite bout of the undercard.
The story of EVIL and SANADA fighting from underneath was an effective one, as they were pounded literally from the opening bell onwards. However, they rallied and the match had a great finishing sequence. SANADA is an unreal athlete and looks like he might be getting his nose in the IWGP Heavyweight Title hunt in the coming months, which I’m all in favour of.
I might pull this back yet kids! 2-3
NEVER Openweight Championship – Hair Vs Hair
Champion – Minoru Suzuki Vs Challenger – Hirooki Goto
Mike’s Prediction –“I think Goto wins here before getting jumped by Suzuki afterwards.”
Actual result – Hirooki Goto, and Suzuki actually shaved his head
I’ll hold my hands up here, I honestly thought that Suzuki would lose and not go ahead with the haircut, thus drawing mega heat in the process. But no, Suzuki manned up and shaved his own head following a brutal war with Goto. No, brutal doesn’t do it justice. Goto took a vicious beating at the hands of Suzuki, with some of the slaps he received sounding like gun shots.
However, Goto eventually managed to hold off Suzuki’s attempt at a Gotch Piledriver and fought his way back into the match, finishing off his tormentor with two GTR’s. In some ways, this was my favourite match on the entire event, with the sort of hardened brutality we’ve all come to expect from Suzuki matches. A now bald Suzuki, humiliated and hell bent on destruction, should lead to even more vicious beat downs in the near future.
Parity is restored! 3-3
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Champion – Marty Scurll Vs Hiromu Takahashi Vs KUSHIDA Vs Will Ospreay
Mike’s Prediction – “I think Scurll retains here, setting up a one on one title defence with Ospreay down the line where Ospreay finally gets his much sort after win over him for a title.”
Actual result – Will Ospreay
It turned out that Ospreay didn’t have to wait for a singles match to get that illusive title win over Scurll, with him finally achieving it at WK12 following an insane spot fest. I felt somewhat for KUSHIDA in this match, as he’s probably the best wrestler of the four but also the one who came out of the match with the least steam. Personality wise he was outshone by his opponents.
I thought this match was absolutely incredible, and couldn’t take my eyes off it lest I miss the next big spot. Would I want a whole show of these matches? Probably not. But as a special attraction on a big event? Yes please!
Oh dear, and I can’t forsee this turning around any soon either. 3-4
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Champion – Hiroshi Tanahashi Vs Challenger – Jay White
Mike’s Prediction – “Jay White clean to win the title”
Actual result – Tanahashi
This was the result that probably most surprised me. I felt for sure that New Japan was going to pull the trigger on White here, like they’ve done in the past with guys like Okada and Takahashi. But on this occasion, New Japan decided to stick with Tanahashi.
Personally I would like to see Tanahashi take a bit of time off to rest up his numerous injuries, and giving the belt to White here would have allowed for that to happen. As far as the match went, I thought it was a solid effort, but Tanahashi has such a legacy of great matches at the Tokyo Dome that this was always going to be an uphill battle.
Instead of trying for a great match, they could have had White win convincingly in a relatively short amount of time to get over Tanahashi’s injuries. A fit and fresh Tanahashi could then return down the line to win the title back if White was struggling as champion.
Dear me, I’m just playing for pride now. 3-5
IWGP United States Title
Champion – Kenny Omega Vs Challenger – Chris Jericho
Mike’s Prediction – “Jericho clean via Codebreaker”
Actual result – Kenny Omega
My reasoning for thinking Jericho might win was that I thought he’d be working with Naito down the line and that having the title would give that program some juice, whilst also freeing Omega up to go for the IWGP Heavyweight Title again.
As it turns out, Jericho and Naito doesn’t appear like it needs a title to have heat, so New Japan decided to keep the belt on Omega. This match was unique for a WK event, being based more around brawling and American styled table bumps than technical wrestling.
Both Omega and Jericho made it work however, with Jericho turning a building of 40,000 people against him almost effortlessly. In some ways, Jericho almost eclipsed Omega in some ways here by being such an overwhelming heel presence.
Despite doubts from some, this match totally delivered and the fact that Jericho is sticking around in New Japan a bit longer is excellent news. This New Japan run really has breathed new life into him both as a performer and personality.
A part of me thought this one might come in. Oh well. 3-6
IWGP Heavyweight Title
Champion – Kazuchika Okada Vs Challenger – Tetsuya Naito
Mike’s Prediction – “Okada via Rain Maker after wearing Naito down with the Cobra Clutch”
Actual result – Okada
There were many storyline and business reasons to have Naito win here. His four yearlong odyssey to the main event at Wrestle Kingdom almost deserved to end with him collecting the belt. On top of that, he’s hugely popular amongst the New Japan audience, selling merchandise hand over fist.
However, New Japan is going for something special with Okada. They want him to be an Antonio Inoki styled generational superstar, and for that to happen he needs to triumph in these sorts of circumstances, regardless of how popular his opponents are. He’s the top star and he wins the big matches, even when you think he’s nailed on to lose.
Either result could have been the right one depending on your own personal point of view, but in the end it was the Okada side who won out and I’m personally fine with that. I just had a feeling in the build-up that Okada might pull it off, and low and behold he did.
The match itself was the usual standard expected of both men, that being a fantastic match which built beautifully to an epic crescendo of big moves and heart stopping near falls. Ultimately, Naito had Okada down following his Destino finishing move, but in a moment of hubris he decided to deliver it once again, allowing Okada to counter with a Tombstone Piledriver. One Rain Maker lariat later, and Okada had won his third Tokyo Dome main event in a row.
End result. 4-6
Oh well, better luck next year eh?
Thanks for reading