NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 - Night 1 - Jan 4, 2020 ------------------------------------------------
Pre-1) Stardom Exhibition Match: Arisa Hoshiki & Mayu Iwatani vs Giulia & Hana Kimura ... which NJPW deigned not to televise (*ahem*), so can't really comment.
Pre-2) An assortment of LA Dojo Young Lions vs Tokyo Dojo Young Lions & Senpai: Alex Coughlin, Clark Connors, Karl Fredricks, & Toa Henare; vs Yuya Uemura, Yota Tsuji, Tomoaki Honma, & Togi Makabe
LA Dojo won, with a strong showing by the 3 LA Dojo guys, & a fine showing by the 2 Tokyo dojo guys.
Pre-3) Kojima & Tenzan vs Nakanishi & Nagata:
Possibly somebody who's whatched longer than I have night have thoughts?
------ After those 2 televised matches, let's hang out til the top of the hour, when the "main card" will get started.
------ 1) Jushin Thunder Liger Retirement Match (du jour)
Liger, Tiger Mask, Great Sasuke, & Tatsumi Fujinami; vs Tatsuhito Takiawa, Shinjiro Ootani, Naoki Sino, & Ryusuke Taguchi
This was a history-fest portion of the Liger Retirement Tour. Fortunately Chris Charleton on commentary was prepared to give us all the various backgrounds of classic feuds, etc among these guys. I'm quite sure this would have been incredibly meaningful for viewers with more history.
No happy ending here: Liger rolled up for pin by Taguchi. Much handshaking & bowing afterward.
2) 8-Man Tag, just because
Bushi, Evil, Sanada & Shingo Takagi (LIJ); vs Minoru Suziki, El Desperado, Taichi, & Zack Sabre Jr (Suzuki-gun)
ZSJ did his thing & wrapped up Bushi for the win.
This was fine -- lots going on, & everybody doing their thing. Fine lead in for the ZSJ/Sanada championship match tomorrow.
Primary objective for this (besides pay-days) was as a warm-up for the Kenta/Goto match tomorrow night. But it was good, & busy.
4) Heavyweight Tag Team Championship:
Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa (c), with Jado; vs Juice Robinson & David Finlay
Good match -- I like all these guys -- strong outing.
FinJuice takes the titles, thus giving Juice a shiny belt to wear tomorrow night to his match with Moxley.
5) US Heavyweight Championship :: Texas Death Match
Lance Archer (c) vs Jon Moxley
This isn't necessarily the kind of thing that I'm usually lots into, but I thought it was very, very good!! Excellent backstory, with Moxley looking to regain the title he'd had stripped. (As well as setup for tomorrow's Juice Robinson rematch.) Two different styles of crazy dudes can make a good story together!
Moxley wins, by driving both of them through tables, with Archer unable to answer the countout.
6) IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship:
Will Osperay (c) vs Hiromu Takahashi
This was awesome. Between the "Hiromu returning from injury" side of the equation, & the amazing year that Osperay has had, this was great. They gave us a solid wrestling match, while including the amazing, flashy stuff that we love from both these guys.
You'd assume that they'd have to do the "feel good" finish (by having Hiromu regain the title), although that wasn't obvious throughout. Excellent build, great near falls, & I wasn't at all sure who was going to win.
Hiromu ultimately wrapped up Will & hit his new finisher --don't think it has an official name yet -- for the comeback story. (Ospreay in the post match comments: "That didn't go to plan.")
7) IWGP Intercontinental Championship:
Jay White (c) (with Gedo); vs Tetsuya Naito
White had the upper hand throughout most of this match, & only toward the end did Naito rally up for the win.
Personally, I really like Jay White, & (Blasphemy!) I find Naito not very interesting. For me, I thought this went on too long, & I would have been happier with Jay winning, & Naito going on to have his existential crisis.
8) IWGP Heavyweight Championship:
Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Kota Ibushi (briefcase holder)
Something felt really weird to me throughout this whole thing. Even from the very beginning, just dancing around before they got going, something felt really off to me. They were doing a very slow, deliberate "chess game" pace throughout. Which should have been fine. Kota seemed just "off" (or overly in his head, or something wrong).
And then there was The Mistake ... or whatever we should call it. Kota jumped up intending some sort of backflip Pele Kick & crashed. He didn't get enough vertical, & he didn't get *any* horizontal movement into Okada. He came right straight back down onto his head. Okada moved forward to try to catch him (as best he could), & then tried to move on to the next thing, but Kota was very not right. From that point, I was just out of the match -- I kept thinking Kota didn't look right, & pretty much felt like Kota was in-&-out of "with it". We know he's had legit concussions, & stumbled through the finish of matches in the past. As the match went on, it didn't feel (to me) like he was clearing up, either. As they were doing the storytelling about "Uh-oh, Kota has flipped into crazy mode", I wasn't totally confident that it was just storytelling. I kept being concerned about that kind of thing all through the rest of the match -- I was too damn busy wondering what the protocol would be for trying to stop the main event of WK for somebody with that kind of problem. So, yeah -- lots of people were talking about this being an awesome match. I just found it really uncomfortable.
------- Soooo, tomorrow (Night 2) that gives us Okada vs Naito for The Double Gold as the finale match. And Jay White vs Kota Ibushi ... because they need to build more history beyond the G1 final, I guess? (Or I can hope & Fantasy Book that Kenny will run in, save Kota, & finish the outstanding business that he has with Jay. Sorry, I try not to do that. :-) )
Nice swerve at the end. I marked out, I admit it. Expecting HHH and not getting him was great, even if it wasn't Y2J. I would imagine HHH is not even close to being out of the WWE title picture. I smell HHH-HBK at Mania.