ROH: 14th Anniversary Review/Recap

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ROH finds themselves in an interesting spot coming into 2016. Things aren’t exactly booming, but things aren’t really heading into the dumps. Perhaps that’s a bit too unkind, the show and promotion is doing well, trending up, but it isn’t filled with a mass of huge angles that draw attention or super big stars that are captivating the world, when rather the wrestling world seems pretty neutral on the product that ROH is coming out with. It’s still really good, and pound for pound better wrestling than a lot of what you’ll be able to see on your TV screen. With the emergence and mainstream wrestling popularity of NXT over the “indie” brand and with others such as Lucha Underground with a fresh perspective on the business along with various indie indie (like, really indie) companies like PWG and EVOLVE, there’s certainly a lot of GOOD wrestling out there than ever before, making ROH fade into the background.

ROH has a ton of good wrestlers, potential stars and people behind the scenes to make not only a great show, but something that sticks out and becomes “must watch” to wrestling fans who already have so much content at their fingertips to watch.

The company runs a risk a lot of the time as still feeling like just a breeding ground for when their stars get super red hot and over that they’ll eventually get signed or poached away by WWE. That doesn’t have to be the case, especially if they make it a premium to push and foster the talent they have now, who have massive potential to build the company as this destination for top-tier wrestling where their characters make up the brand. They definitely took a step in the right direction locking down the Young Bucks last year and then at the end of the year re-upping Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly (who are a fantastic tag team, but seem destined for more singles pushes this year) and Jay Lethal who continues to kill it in the ring and on promos as the ROH World Champion. Adam Cole is another guy who seems to have unlimited potential, and thus is always linked to going to WWE, but with the right handling of him the guy could be a star in ROH and the guy to headline the brand in the coming years.

Tomohiro Ishii Defeated Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish to retain the ROH World Television Championship:

This was the match that came out of nowhere and largely thrown together after Ishii won the ROH TV title. I was very much looking forward to the Roddy/Bobby rematch after them having a pretty great match at Final Battle, and I’m a bit disappointed we didn’t get it here since this match wasn’t very great and the story the two men had coming in was pretty good, only to get swept aside now that Ishii was involved.

Granted, it’s kinda cool that Roddy lost the belt at the joint ROH/NJPW show a wee before it was to be defended, since that never really happens and gives that shock value since you always assume once a guy is booked to defend his title at a big event, he won’t lose it between then, but not when you face someone like Ishii.

So, yeah, this match wasn’t bad per se, but definitely underwhelming especially when you have the talents of all three guys, especially ones who can crash and bang. Ishii’s style and first time in an ROH ring might’ve thrown a bit of a kink in it, but either way it wasn’t anything special, and didn’t even get much time to build until it was over pretty fast.

I thought that Ishii would give up the title with Roddy pinning Bobby or something like that where Ishii avoids the pinfall, but I guess they’re sticking it with Ishii and I guess the TV title won’t be a thing going forward on the ROH tapings, since I doubt they’ll do much if at all with it at the TV tapings. I don’t know what this means for Roddy/Bobby and I guess we won’t see Ishii defending the belt until Global Wars in May.

B.J. Whitmer Defeated Adam Page:

This was really the only match on the card I could not have cared less for. I pretty much tune out any and all Whitmer/Page stuff on the weekly TV shows as it doesn’t do anything for me promo-wise or wanting to see these guys go at it in the ring. The only thing I will say is that Whitmer is a pretty good heel and great at actually attracting heat, but even still I find it hard to care about him or what he’s doing. Just that I know and recognize how good he is at doing it.

Also, I’m not really too sure about Adam Page. I haven’t seen enough of him to fully judge whether he has the chops to be a top guy going forward as some see him as. To me now he’s nothing special, but I’d like to see him be put with someone his more equal wrestling-wise and for him to have a feud where he can sink his teeth in a little more with someone more of his ilk.

Hirooki Goto Defeated Dalton Castle:

Since Goto’s original opponent Ishii was thrown into that defending his TV title, Goto had to have a new opponent and it probably worked out just as well with Dalton Castle getting a prime spot against the former IGWP Championship no. 1 contender. They had a really great match with a lot of strength moves being used, especially by Castle who showed no struggle putting his signature suplexes on the hefty Goto. I would’ve liked to have seen Castle win, since everybody loves him, all the other NJPW stars won and the company seems to slowly but surely be moving him up the card, but it’s not the worst to have him lose as he still looked fantastic in defeat and it’s not really going to do anything to his status.

Alex Shelley Defeated Christopher Daniels:

This was a really great match, too, as expected from two fantastic wrestlers who have come all the way from TNA and putting on great X division matches. This was really all to set up the reunited of the Moto City Machine Guns with Chris Sabin coming out and turning face to align with Shelley, and also helping him to get the win. This obviously sets up a feud between the newly reformed MCMG and The Addiction, which should result in some fantastic tag bouts.

Hiroshi Tanahashi and Michael Elgin Defeated The Briscoes:

This was definitely the second best match of the night (behind the six-man tag) and it makes sense since it’s hard to find any better veteran journeyman workers like Tanahashi/Elgin and the Briscoe brothers. I absolutely love the Tanahashi/Elgin pairing, they seem so different, yet so perfect for each other and put in some great collaborative work as the best babyface tag team out there for my money right now. I heard some thoughts that they might challenge for the NJPW tag titles, which would be a fun program. Also, I’m no doctor, but Tanahashi’s shoulder looks pretty damn healed and he showed no issues with it or shied away from it at all. If it wasn’t already apparent that dude is the Japanese John Cena, he’s apparently got his freakish fast-healing skills as well.

It’s kinda crazy to me that Jay Briscoe had one of the biggest and longest ROH World title reigns and was the top guy in the company and then as soon as he lost to Lethal he was eventually just down doing random tag matches with his brother. I wonder what the plans are with him, if it’s just a holding pattern for now, as he seems like too good of a guy just to be stuck doing largely nothing matches. Granted, he’s been with the company forever and done it all, so who knows.

Kazuchika Okada Defeated Moose:

I definitely can’t say I was really looking forward to this because I couldn’t believe they booked this match, not only because it was the IWGP champ against Moose, but because Okada and Moose had such different style that I didn’t think anything that good would come out of it. It was actually pretty good, though! It wasn’t amazing or anything, but definitely not as bad or boring as I expected it to be. I mean, Moose is big obviously and also very athletic, which he did well to utilize to keep up pace with Okada and thus never devolved into a “big lug versus small guy” fight, and actually had a pretty nice pace to it. It was probably Moose’s best match he’s had and really you’d assume only good things would come out of this since it was actually pretty good, but I guess if you’re getting booked in a singles match with Okada in the first place you’re doing something right.

The Elite Defeated Kushida, ACH and Matt Sydal to retain the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship:

Everybody had huge expectations of what to expect and what they wanted to see out of this match, and it’s pretty safe to safe that they were all blown out of the water. There literally wasn’t a weak link anywhere in this match between any of the six guys, the spots and staging, everything was perfect and would literally be a blur if I attempted to type out every move these guys did. Kenny Omega and the Bucks were CRAZY over and treated these dudes like gods, especially Omega who now being booked as a top guy in NJPW just overnight seems like this huge star. While The Elite got the enormous reactions, Kushida, ACH and Sydal were more than up to the task of equally them in the ring and looked great all around. My love for ACH grows by the match, it’s no question he’ my favourite guy in the company (outside of maybe Jay Lethal), and he should be star wherever he is in the next couple years.

War Machine Defeated The All Night Express to retain the ROH World Tag Team Championship:

These poor guys. Nothing could have followed that six-man tag match and as soon as this thing began it was like all the air was released from the room. The crowd was deflated as they just spent all their energy going crazy for the six guys before that they really couldn’t care less about this match. The match was no DQ which involved weapons into the melee, but that did nothing to help entice the crowd. I mean, it wasn’t the greatest match with the best guys to begin with, but it wasn’t bad, just stuck in an unfortunate spot where the guys got nothing from the crowd and seemed to reflect back the same.

Jay Lethal Defeated Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly to retain the ROH World Championship:

Even the world title main event seemingly was still feeling the hungover effects of the six-man match as while this thing was a bit more lively than the tag title match, the crowd was still very quiet throughout and never really gave the match any of that main event energy, with the match suffering because of it.

It was a good match, though, not an all-time classic or anything, but really good. I didn’t think they’d take the belt off of Lethal this soon, but it does feel like it might be soon and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did take it off him. Granted, I love Lethal and think he still has a ton more run left as the champ and is doing great work, so I think there’s still time with him, but it wouldn’t shock me to have him lose. I was shocked that Adam Cole took the pin and not O’Reilly, so maybe it will indeed be O’Reilly who eventually takes the belt, as he definitely has the wrestling skills, although nowhere near as good as Lethal or Cole on the mic.

O’Reilly is just so fun to watch and if you somehow think technical wrestling is boring, Kyle is never not boring and always has some flair with his chain wrestling. One of the best spots was when O’Reilly had both Lethal and Cole in a submission at the same time.

I’m not really sure how this review came off, but overall I wasn’t really all that enamored with the show. It wasn’t bad, but didn’t really leave me with anything all that positive going forward out of it outside of the six-man tag match. It feel into good, not great, territory, something that as I mentioned above I don’t think ROH really has that liberty to put on something just good and not all that memorable. The year is early, though, and I really don’t see any reason why this year shouldn’t be as good as the last as they got a lot of fundamental pieces to build off. Their TV taping set got a massive upgrade with a new lighting grid and a whole new entrance stage, so they definitely are trying on all ends to make the product as appealing visually as possible (I never had an issue with it before, since I kinda like that gritty, dingy look, but I get how people would be turned off by it). ROH and NJPW are probably my two favourite companies, and not coincidentally the two companies I have the most trust in when it comes to booking matches and creating long-term angles and thus serving their characters. That’s why when they don’t hit it out of the park I’m more forgivable on one hand, but on the other it continually seems like in this day and age with all the competition out there’s becoming less and less of a safety net.

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The New Beginning In Osaka/The New Beginning In Niigata: Review/Recap

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Unlike I previously do I’m not going to go match-by-match on these shows, as I’m combining them together and I really don’t have much to say about these shows outside of the main events and big angles moving forward.

With the departure of two of the four main draws from the company in Shinsuke Nakamura and A.J. Styles to WWE, it was clear immediately that some new blood needed to be injected in the main event picture, especially since the remaining two of those four, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada, had just finished a lengthy program (and years at that if you want to go that far.). Enter Kenny Omega, the loony second string Bullet Club member who has been enjoying the last year contending for and defending the Light Heavyweight championship to excellent measures. With AJ’s departure from NJPW and the Bullet Club Omega was earmarked to not only establish himself as a singles star, but be the one at the top of the company with the likes of Japanese favourites Tanahashi and Okada.

While we were robbed of Omega going after Nakamura and his Intercontinental belt (they just made things easiest with Nakamura’s swift depature and just had him give it up), we got the next best thing with Tanahashi stepping into Nakamura’s place to defend the honour of the belt against the vociferous Omega. Tanahashi himself is in an interesting spot because of this, long the golden child of NJPW and the Japanese fan and while he still is, at the age of 39 he’s not getting any younger and he’s just coming off passing the torch unofficially to Okada at Wrestle Kingdom, failing to capture the title and thus taking himself out of that main event spot, that we’ve so used to seeing him compete in. Not only that, but Tanahashi suffered a shoulder injury about a month back, about the worst thing the company would want to see when they’re already hemorrhaging from top star losses, but Tanahashi being Tanahashi he’s worked through the injury and hasn’t missed any time (though, one could argue how foolish that could be in the long run.

So, The New Beginning In Niigata spurned by needing to establish another top singles star without damaging what few they already had did what New Japan seemingly always does when the boot is to their throat, they came through looking better than ever. Of course the talents of Tanahashi and Omega are going to put on a great match no matter what, the real jewel of this match was the storytelling authored by both men, telling a believable and well-rounded story that elevated Omega to a spot worthy of being up there with Tanahashi and Okada. Omega won about as cleanly as you possibly could with the likes of the Young Bucks interfering and doing all they could to weaken Tanahashi. The whole match saw Omega work over the injured shoulder of Tanahashi, targeting it with every move and making sure he suffered as much as possible. Tanahashi would get his own measure of revenge working over the leg of Omega, with boys guys doing terrific job of selling their injuries and showing the worsening of their condition as the match went on. Eventually after all his outside help and hitting Tanahashi with the Bomaye (Nakamura’s move) and the Styles Clash (Styles’ move) Omega hit the Angel Wings and got the win, the Intercontinental championship and NJPW got a top guy to help push the company forward.

What makes Omega so great is that he perfectly fills a role in NJPW that is an easy gimmick to fill, but his skill and dedication take everything so far beyond that. While NJPW is obviously filled with tons of great talent, including Tanahashi and Okada who are your prototypical Japanese wrestlers wrestling under honour, class and dedication to those who came before them, Omega is a perfect yang to their yin (yes, I realize that is Chinese). Omega is the stereotypical boisterous foreigner who often talks a lot more than he backs it up (although, he’s been backing it up lately) and the rude guy who could care less about Japanese customs and culture in the wrestling ring and just wants to perform a mass takeover however he can get it. With the stoic Tanahashi Omega proves a nice foil and one going forward that hopefully can maintain his position that he attained. Sure, Omega is goofy and doesn’t present the immediate qualities of a serious consistent main eventer, but sometimes in dire needs the thing you constantly glaze over may just be the perfect antidote that you’ve had under your nose this whole time.

After finally dispatching of Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom, Okada needed a new opponent, at least one for the time being, and Hirooki Goto proved to be the perfect stop gap. No question Goto had no chance of winning, and of course he didn’t, they had a pretty good match all things considered, but after this defeat in Osaka and pinning him the next night I don’t see this feud lasting much longer. I’d love to see Tetsuya Naito get a run at the belt and at least a decent program against the champ, especially since they’ve been building up Los Ingobernables de Japón.

Katsuyori Shibata and Tomohiro Ishii had another classic match, which you could argue was just as great as their Wrestle Kingdom match. You could literally only show me Shibata/Ishii matches for the rest of my life and I would die happy. I’m so glad Shibata is finally getting a run with a belt and don’t see any reason to take it off him for a long while, and only doing so to build someone up or elevate a blood feud with Shibata. Whoever it may be, the bar has been set and you’d expect nothing less than a war to pry the belt out of Shibata’s hands.

I still have no clue why they introduced the NEVER Openweight 6-Man tag team belts as they flopped around in these two events and seemingly get won each match they’re in. It doesn’t do to well for the status of your belt when it’s constantly being flip-flopped from team to team and has no staying power or relevance, deeming it useless.

Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows continued finishng their last few dates in the company, as they, too, are off to WWE leaving the NJPW tag division further damaged as I don’t know who Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma’s next opponents are, especially since they got that dumb 6-man belt floating around, ugh.

So, all in all it was a solid group of shows and one that did a good job reshuffling the deck and starting to put some pieces into play for how the rest of the year is shaping up given all the departures and turmoil put upon the company over the last month and a bit. This is NJPW, though, and any other company I’d be nervous if they were put in this booking position *cough*WWE*cough*, but they have the track record to show that it’s nothing to worry about and these two events that clearly show the ship is headed in the right direction and the stormy conditions don’t look as bad as they previously thought.

Wrestle Kingdom 10: Review/Recap

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The Young Bucks defeats reDRagon, Matt Sydal and Ricochet, and Roppongi Vice to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship:

This match has basically become a staple of the Wrestle Kingdom card by now, opening the show by throwing all the junior tag teams into a four-way and let the havoc ensure. Some people don’t seem to be a fan of this thing, since it literally just breaks into a chaotic spotfest from the drop, but c’mon, you’ll get your technical wrestling and storytelling from the last three matches or so, this thing is just meant to be a ton of fun. It’s always hilarious because the match always starts off well inside the rules with two guys starting it off, abiding by the tag rules, but then within a minute or two it always devolves for the rest of the match with crazy spots between all four groups at once and you never know who is actually the legal men for the pinfalls. It really doesn’t matter to me, because individually all these teams are fantastic, and they’ve worked with each other so much that this thing always is fun and provides a nice segue into the show.

I was surprised the Bucks came out on top, I was expecting reDRagon to lose, most likely to Sydal and Ricochet with them having won the tag tournament and are they fresh blood, but I guess not. Everything, though, seems to be pointing towards a Buck/Sydal & Ricochet program, which is the logical route, so it should be fun to see them put together some more concise and story-oriented spotfest tag matches when it’s just those two teams.

The Briscoes and Toru Yano defeats the Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga and Yujiro Takahashi) to win the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship:

I don’t think anyone knows why this belt was created, since the two tag championships seem a little bit much as it is. It’s not even like they got some great factions or some kind of storyline that would realistically culminate in this belt, nope, rather they just threw in the other remaining Bullet Club memebers who weren’t booked and have them face the Briscoes and Toru Yano for some reason. The Briscoes are great and it’s cool to see them back in Japan, which hopefully is the start of more to come, but this thing was wholly unnecessary all the way around. Toru Yano was fine, and this whole thing was just that, fine, but it was just not needed in anyway. Mark Briscoe definitely had the best showing and seemed committed to trying to get over with his move-set and personality. Mark actually seems like somebody the Japanese would love with his zany and wacky personality combined with his solid in-ring skills, so who knows, this might be the beginning of something worthwhile.

Jay Lethal defeats Michael Elgin to retain the ROH World Championship:

I was really looking forward to this since I’m a huge ROH fan, an even bigger Jay Lethal fan and have done a complete 180 over the past year on Michael Elgin and have been loving his work as of late. Unfortunately, since this thing was at this point in the card they weren’t given much time and did a good enough job with what they had, but was nowhere close to how good this could’ve been main-eventing an ROH pay-per-view. Everything just felt very condensed and didn’t really feel like much of a world title match. The Japanese looove Elgin now since he’s this mammoth of a gaijin, but even still there was no way Lethal was going to lose the belt like this, and it really was just a showcase for the belt and company.

It’s super cool to see Elgin get so over in Japan, a place he’s wanted to wrestle his whole life. I used to hate Elgin, namely because he was so boring and I usually hate his big lug style of wrestling, but with him taking a backseat from the ROH title picture and him heading over to Japan for the G1 Climax he’s been putting in some solid unassuming work that made him a favourite with the Japanese fans and seems to have put him in a top spot going forward with NJPW.

Kushida defeats Kenny Omega to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship:

This belt bounced around between both men this year and it was pretty clear it was going back to Kushida for the foreseeable future, especially when bigger things were being brought up for Omega. The matches between these two are always great, like, solid four star outings everytime, nothing ever sensational, just very solid matches.

Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma defeats the Bullet Club (Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson) to win the IWGP Tag Team Championship:

This thing was also pretty predictable with Makabe and Honman completed their coronation after winning the tag tournament last month and by finally giving Honma a win and putting it on the grand stage of Wrestle Kingdom. It was a really good match all the way around, helped out by the always solid Gallows and Anderson who are basically an institution in these sorts of tag matches by now.

Hirooki Goto defeats Tetsuya Naito:

For all intents and purposes this was basically a no. 1 contender’s match for the heavyweight championship, which seemed to me to be a sure-win for Naito, but Goto had other ideas. It seemed like ever since re-jigging Naito with this Los Ingobernables stable and his whole evil bad-ass gimmick that they were grooming him to be next in line with Okada, not that that won’t happen, but it’s not the immediate plans here. Goto relatively fresh off his Intercontinental reign and battles with Nakamura looks to be stepping things up and entering a program with Okada. Goto at this point just seems like a breather feud for Okada to go into after the enormity of the Tanahashi feud, so I don’t expect much beyond a stop gap for that.

I’m a big fan of Naito and still think the long-term is to try and build him to that main event status to duel with Okada, whether he’s up to the task and people buy him in that position is another story, but it seems like that’s what will happen, especially with the eventual departures that we’ll get into.

Katsuyori Shibata defeats Tomohiro Ishii to win the NEVER Openweight Championship:

And now we get into the big stuff, a basic trifecta of matches that easily could main event any PPV card around the world. Each match had it’s unique hook that you could argue through your own preferences why it was match of the night. This one was the war. This was a Shibata/Ishii match after all, we all knew what we were getting, a pro wrestling match that basically throws pro wrestling out the window in regards to the “wrestling” aspect and also the “fake” aspects. This thing was just a brutal battle of kicks, chops, headbutts and one-upmanship with both men trading kicks and inviting each other to take their best shot, like it was some sort of tough guy competition. Shibata somehow prevailed in the end, somehow gaining his first singles title, which is kinda hard to believe for someone of his calibre. It’s time for him to own the belt and really there’s no better guy to put the title on and long may he reign.

Shinsuke Nakamura defeats A.J. Styles to retain the IWGP Intercontinental Championship:

I can’t honestly remember match that I’ve looked forward to more than this one. A.J. Styles has been my favourite wrestler for over a decade and it’s still crazy to me that coming back to him over a decade later he’s putting on the best matches of his life at this point in his career and at the age of 38. I’m relatively new to NJPW so Shinsuke Nakamura was new to me, but like pretty much everybody who sees just one match from the guy I was hooked before he even got to the ring. His flamboyance and charisma make you unable to draw your eyes anywhere but where his frame is occupying the screen. Nowadays I usually skip entrances of people I’ve seen a million times, but not Nakamura, his entrance and song deserves to be seen every time, it’s that captivating. Not only does he have this unique and boisterous Michael Jackson-eqsue look, but he backs it up in the ring with a mix of technical prowess and hard-nosed strikes. It gets thrown around a lot, but this was a dream match, with both guys never really fighting each one-on-one like this, and everything culminating with expectations for this to be match of the year.

Unfortunately, A.J. has been suffering with a back injury for the last month or so, putting him out of the tag tournament and putting this and his Final Battle ROH Heavyweight title match in jeopardy. But, A.J. being the big match wrestler he is put on a fantastic performance at Final Battle, but the jury was still out on how healthy he would be for this one of, if not the biggest match of his career. In the end you couldn’t even tell how or if A.J. was suffering, but what you could see was the flawless match that A.J. and Nakamura put on. A.J. sold his back in the match, but just in-so-far as a method to lure Nakamura into a false sense of security, never actually seeming in any pain. A.J. and Nakamura put on a chain wrestling with both men so skilled at countering and seeming to have about 20 different ways to reverse each move the other put on him. In the end Nakamura outlasted A.J., not before kicking out of a Styles Clash (a one-handed one, though, so perhaps Styles didn’t connect all the force that he wanted to). An exhausted Nakamura hit Styles with two back-to-back knee blows to the back of his head, doubling up on his finisher to get the win.

This was the kind of match that makes you proud to be a wrestling fan and thankful that this thing actually exists and matches like this are capable of reaching the insurmountable hype. I basically had to stop writing this blurb halfway through just so I could go watch it again.

Kazuchika Okada defeats Hiroshi Tanahashi to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Championship:

And then as if match of the night had already been snatched up before the main event even went on, the culmination of the years long feud and passing of the torch between Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada culminated like few things I’ve seen before. Now, about halfway through this match I was certain it wouldn’t reach the Nakamura/Styles level from the previous match, but then the back half and the ending sequence just blew this thin into the stratosphere.

It’s hard for me to judge this fully because while the Nakamura/Styles match was largely just built off wrestling and the fact that they hadn’t wrestled before, the Okada/Tanahashi match was dripping in this epic feud they’ve been having for seemingly forevever, with the remnants of previous matches effective the latest one. I’ve only been watching NJPW for a year now, so the history and storytelling doesn’t mean as much to me as someone who lived through the whole thing, but nonetheless it was a gripping and wondrous piece of storytelling.

As the 36 minute match drew to a close Okada was reaching as far into his bag of tricks as possible, his lariat finisher The Rainmaker, which nobody kicks out of, was doing nothing to Tanahashi to put him down. Unsure, of what next to do Okada’s hand clung onto Tanahashi, never letting him out of his grasp, making sure he wouldn’t venture away from Okada’s grip. He kept hold of him and nailed Tanahashi with two Rainmakers, keeping hold of Tanahashi and then finally collasping over him for the pin count. Only then did Okada relieve his grasp on Tanahashi, separating himself from the man who he’d been connected to through wrestling, expectation and life. Cementing himself as THE guy and champion on top, with the Tanahashi era vanishing behind him. As he released his grip, he became the pre-eminent guy on top, Kazuchika Okada readied himself for what’s to come by letting go of what got him there.

Post Wrestle Kingdom 10 craziness/New Year’s Dash:

As if Wrestle Kingdom wasn’t enough of a newsworthy event to kick off the new year, the following day had a little something to say about that. It was reported that Shinsuke Nakamura, A.J. Styles, Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows had all given their notice to NJPW the day of Wrestle Kingdom with their intention to leave the company, and join… WWE. How about that! From everything that’s come out it seems like besides the physicality of signing the actual contract this thing is as good as done. Nakamura has made it no secret that he desires to take himself and his brand to the highest level possible and expand himself globally and he sees WWE as the best chance to do that. A.J. Styles has literally for years been THE guy that people wondered what would happen if he ever signed with WWE and it seemed like it would never happen given his career and how successful he was outside of it, but now it’s finally happening. Anderson and Gallows look to be WWE wanting them in the company to try and garner some of the Bullet Club popularity and remake that sort of group, perhaps with Finn Balor. Again, this is all speculation about what they’re exactly gonna do, but what isn’t is that they’re coming, barring something amazingly foreseen.

Now is this the best move for these guys? With A.J. I think it’s just an inevitable thing and a “checking the box” type of thing. He’s done almost literally everything to do in a wrestling career without any involvement with WWE. It’s not like you can blame his age or call him washed up, given his laundry list of epic matches over the past years, not to mention his MOTC last night. Nakamura seems to be a different story, where he’s on the top of the world in Japan and is a foreign talent, and you never know how WWE will treat that, but they seem high on him, so it’s all up to the usage. That’s the thing, these guys have been having incredible matches outside of WWE and don’t need the company, but eventually it all comes down to usage. If WWE uses them right and lets their talents shine and doesn’t smother them with the WWE way and doesn’t make them just another cog in the machine they can help the product, but just as easily they could revel and be just spinning their wheels. It’s obviously a blow to NJPW, a huge one actually, with half of their “top four,” the others being Okada and Tanahashi, leaving very abruptly.

The New Year’s Dash show the following day shot a terrific angle with Kenny Omega of the Bullet Club turning on their leader A.J. and demolishing him, eventually joined by the Young Bucks, Anderson, Gallows and the rest as they ousted their leader. Omega made some pretty good reasoning as why he turned on A.J., as they basically stood beside while A.J. got all the good singles matches and all the top championship opportunities while people like Omega languished in the light heavyweight division. Omega then made his case about going after Nakamura and the IC belt, which I’m sure he’ll take since Nakamura is on his way out. It’s honestly a long time coming, with Omega obviously more of a fit for the heavyweight division. NJPW needs all the top singles talent it can get now, and while I don’t know if Omega ticks every box on what makes a main eventer, he’s definitely committed and dedicated enough to make a hell of a run at things and I’m excited to see where they take these things. NJPW is so good at booking that I have more faith in them booking a good product without Styles, Nakamura, Anderson, Gallows then I do WWE with those talents, but I guess we’ll see.

It’s amazing to think we’re four or five days into 2016 and we already probably have our match of the year and story of the year. It’s going to be an interesting couple months as we see how and when these new WWE signings occur, supposedly WWE was pissed it got out as some of those guys could’ve been surprise Royal Rumble entrants, and how NJPW books their programming, but I have no doubts they’ll be great.

Night Of Champions: Review/Recap

Night Of Champions BannerSo, I’ve been back in the WWE and wrestling game for officially a year now after my decade or so of an absence. Technically it was marked by SummerSlam, but Night Of Champions last year was the first PPV I specifically set out to watch and saw the build towards. What’s that old joke about wrestling, you never stop being a fan, you just go through periods where you are completely smothered by it and others where you can’t stand it, it’s like a life-long disease. So, it’s a year later and I still watch so much it from WWE each week, TNA, ROH, NJPW, Lucha Underground and not to mention my whole Attitude Era watching and various other stuff. I don’t know what I did with all my time before I got back into wrestling, oh yeah, just watch other random TV. Anyways, I ramble and go on wayyy too long in these wrestling articles, so basically I’m gonna write about each current pay-per-view each month as a way to get my thoughts out about the current product and such. Let’s see how this goes.

Kevin Owens Defeats Ryback to win the Intercontinental Championship:

I am just the biggest Kevin Owens mark and love everything about him. He’s Canadian, has a unique look, prides himself on his family, is a badass, has a brutal moveset which also features a ton of agile moves for his build, is fantastic on the mic, and so on and on. He’s probably my favourite thing in wrestling right now. And Ryback… let’s just say I feel the complete opposite. Ryback just seems like a child, he has this ridiculous physique that is so far gone that it’s comical, he is horrendous on the mic and it’s hard to take anything seriously with him. It was destined that Owens would take the belt off Ryback once they got into this feud, but I’m surprised they did it this quickly, although it was the right move. Ryback’s reign has been dreadful and was barely treading water and doing the title a major disservice. Owens is gold and him having the belt will definitely help its credibility and provide a better angle for their feud. I’m curious to see how it’ll play out since Owens promos murder Ryback and it makes him look not even in his league, but I’m looking forward to it, mainly as a way to see more Kevin Owens.

Dolph Ziggler Defeats Rusev:

WWE’s version of what they think is a juicy soap opera tail. Where nobody knows who the “good” guy is in this and pretty much everybody in this is awful. From Rusev’s treatment of the women by his side, to Ziggler playing two women even though he’s supposed to be the good one, to Summer and Lana’s cattiness and TOTALLY STEREOTYPICAL WOMEN STUFF WHERE THEY’RE ONLY GOOD FOR ONE THING. It just needs to end and has no drawing power and people just don’t care. Lana, one of the few good parts, generally, is off TV with a legit injury, so I don’t even know what’s happening here anymore. It seems like there might be some kind of swerve with the Ziggler turn or whatever, but it’s so far past caring at this point.

The Dudley Boyz Defeats The New Day:

The New Day are at peak overness and The Dudleyz are a perfect foil to combat their goofiness. The match wasn’t that great, but we all know it’s leading to a tables match, whenever that may be, such as Hell In A Cell, or however long they stretch it for. The Dudleyz will obviously get their tenth reign sometime during their return, but I don’t know if it’s the right move to do now since The New Day are so hot and capable of getting such a reaction no matter who they’re with. And The Dudleyz are an easy team to help put over others, given their history and in-ring skill so them working to strengthen the tag divison in other ways would be great. The Dudleyz feuding with the Wyatts would be so much fun.

Charlotte Defeats Nikki Bella to win the Divas Championship:

Nikki gets her record and then drops the belt less than a week later so now everybody’s happy? I thought they would give Nikki the win here, just so it totally didn’t seem like she got the record then the belt taken off her as quickly as possible, but eh. Can’t say I really enjoyed the match, even though I love Charlotte and am actually a pretty big fan of Nikkie Bella’s in-ring work. They had Nikki work Charlotte’s leg, continually going after it and largely dominating the match by targeting her leg and making it the focal point of her offense. It was a fine storytelling move, but one completely obliterated of credibility when Charlotte without having put much offense in gets the figure four (a leg submission) on Nikki then bridges into her figure eight modifier, putting pressure on Charlotte’s legs which are the main source of the move and she pulls it off effortlessly with no pain and Nikki taps out to lose. A body part that had been worked the whole match just magically healed and was of nothing to Charlotte and she showed no signs of struggle. This just bugged me so much when they put such an emphasis on Nikki working that leg, and it was just thrown out the window and thus the storytelling became pointless. I’m optimistic to see what happens with the title picture in the wake of the ugh Divas Revolution ugh and with Paige’s heel turn. There’s a ton of talent there to give good matches with Charlotte, Nikkie, Paige, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and even Naomi in spots. So, in theory the future should be bright, but let’s see if the booking agrees.

The Wyatt Family Defeats Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho:

This is another feud I’m sick of, even though I individually enjoy Ambrose, Reigns and the Wyatt Family, but it just seems like it’s been going on forever, especially when it just seems like yesterday that Ambrose had his singles feud with Wyatt. Chris Jericho was the mystery partner, and eh, I like Jericho but I wasn’t to moved with him being the partner, especially because it doesn’t really push that particular story. Sure, he cost them the match, but he isn’t booked seemingly to continue this and really just seems like to set up a possible feud with Ambrose somewhere down the line when Jericho wants to come back to TV. I didn’t really like the ending especially when they’re not going to continue that storyline with Jericho immediately, so why even book it like that. I honestly don’t know how much longer they can stretch this thing, because everything just gets repeated. It’s the same Wyatt promo every week, the same Reigns or Ambrose match that gets interrupted by the Wyatts each week. Like are they going to try to push to Survivor Series for an elimination match, because I can’t handle that. I’d love to see Reigns, Ambrose and Wyatt moved on as they’re all great talents just getting bogged down now. I also wish Reigns and Ambrose split and maybe they even did go with that rumored Ambrose turn. I just want all Shield members separate from each other, so they’re eventual feud and then reconciliation will be that much more special.

John Cena Defeats Seth Rollins to win the United States Championship:

John’s gotta get back his win and title, of course. It was fun while it lasted with Rollins being the dual champ, but by whatever way they weren’t going to have both titles on Rollins for that long. Cena’s good as the U.S. Champ, he has great matches with everybody and can pull good matches out of lesser people and at least provides a vessel where other superstars can show off their stuff on the John Cena level of attention, not that they’ll ever win, but yeah. This was another great match between the two, not as good as SummerSlam, but surprisingly high energy given Rollins had another match right after this.

Seth Rollins Defeats Sting to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship:

Unfortunately this match is now overshadowed by the injuries sustained to Sting when he took those turnbuckle powerbombs, but it was a really great match between the two and Sting gave it his all and did not hold anything back, which I guess unfortunately lead to his injuries. I wasn’t sure if it was scripted or not when the doctor was attending to Sting, but I was surprised to see the bumps he was taking especially the turnbuckle powerbombs that he took twice. I don’t think it’ll be the last we’ll see of Sting, but it’s really unfortunate for a seemingly great guy and one who even in injury put Rollins over exceedingly. And then, oh yeah, Demon Kane comes back to start the long-gestating and inevitable Rollins/Kane feud that we’ve all been clamoring for. That’s what’ll turn around the plummeting ratings! Now Demon Kane is fun and it’s nice to see him again, but I don’t have that much hope that the story will be that justifiable, plus a Rollins/Kane match just doesn’t inspire much from me. I hope it’s done with Hell In A Cell and Rollins gets to move on, someone mentioned it and I agree, a Rollins/Sheamus match has the potential to be a lot of fun. It kinda seems like Rollins days as champ are numbered, given the slumping ratings, the need to switch things up and a general malaise on him it seems nowadays. I always just assumed it would be Reigns to take the belt off him, now that he’s gained a lot more luster versue earlier in the years with the chorus of boos that greeted him, and he’s definitely a lot better on the mic now and is underratedly a good in the ring. Now that I think about it, they haven’t really done the Rollins/Reigns feud one-on-one especially due to the WrestleMania aftermath, so that very much could be a direction they go to soon, which would be a lot of fun. I think WWE is just counting the days to have Reigns, a strong babyface champ, go have a long run as Heavyweight champ and be the face of the company.

Overall it wasn’t that great of a show and has no matches that I’m fiending to rewatch, outside of possibly the Rollins matches because everything he puts on nowadays is usually gold. And of course the biggest news to come out of the event was just the randomly booked, oh, hey, by the way Undertaker/Brock Lesnar are blowing off their feud at Hell In A Cell inside the steel structure. No big deal. I was dreading them setting up their blow off match for WrestleMania 32 and it wasn’t something I was looking forward to seeing them waste on the event when there is so many better options for both of them to do at the biggest event of the year. And putting it at Hell In A Cell obviously is a response to the slumping ratings to book possibly the biggest match you can nowadays, Taker/Lesnar in a cell, and thus frees them up to start new feuds. I just hope they put Lesnar over cleanly like he deserves and should, there’s no reason for Taker at this stage to come out of this on top, especially since the Brock as that illustrious Mania victory over him. Undertaker does not need this feud victory to remain strong, neither does Lesnar since he’ll always be a beast, but Lesnar is still probably wrestling for a couple more years and is a legitimate option for the title picture and longer feud, while Taker is a special attraction once or twice a year and though seemingly on the brink of retirment, he seems content with working sporadically for the foreseeable future, which is good for WWE as long as his health stays up.