NJPW’s biggest show of the year, the legendary 1/4 Dome show, has written another chapter in the history books. Not only was this the first Jan 4th show for MMA god Kazushi Sakuraba in 16 years but it was also the first to ever be available live to a worldwide audience and it also featured the longest match in the events history. So not only was it historic in more ways than one but for our money, it was one of the best dome shows of all time. Lets review the action.
Special Eight Man Tag Match:
Manabu Nakanishi, Akebono, Strong Man & MVP defeated Bob Sapp, Toru Yano, Takashi Iizuka & Yujiro Takahashi via Argentine Backbreaker from Nakanishi on Iizuka – 7:53
Akebono & Bob Sapp, two of Japan’s biggest stars of yesteryear clashed once again and 10 years after they headlined K-1 Dynamite, here they are opening Wrestle Kingdom…oh how times have changed. Anyway, we won’t bore you with Sapp’s extensively documented downfall. We will however say that this a really fun and wild opening match that fired the crowd up nicely, can’t ask for much more than that. It was also nice to see Nakanishi pick up the win at such a big show, after being out of action for so long.
NEVER Openweight Title Match:
Masato Tanaka defeated Shelton Benjamin via Sliding D – 6:41
The lone disappointment on the show. Not because it was bad, it wasn’t but we expected just a little bit more out of these two fantastic wrestlers who were more than capable of establishing the brand new NEVER title with one match. Unfortunately the match wasn’t given the time to develop into anything but an entertaining, but forgettable bout. Yujiro Takahashi’s outside heel tactics really over shadowed the action in ring.
IWGP Tag Team Title Match:
Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer defeated Hirooki Goto & Karl Anderson via Killer Bomb on Goto – 10:52
Here’s where the action really started to build. Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer have really made an impressive mark on NJPW’s tag division since teaming together and had perhaps their best showing yet at WK, taking on two of Japan’s top wrestlers. Both teams made big entrances that got the crowd pumped up and the in ring did not let them down. Both teams displayed great chemistry and Archer in particular has shown big improvements in his last few matches, moving from a forum joke to a legit force.
Special Singles Match:
Yuji Nagata defeated Minoru Suzuki via Backdrop Hold – 17:03
One of wrestling’s oldest feuds continued at WK and to no ones surprise, it was fantastic! Suzuki made one of the greatest entrances in history, having Ayumi Nakamura perform a live new version of his legendary Kaze ni nare theme and as always, Nagata and Suzuki beat the hell out of each other in glorious fashion. It’s tough sometimes to get excited about the same match over and over again but these two always seem to keep it fresh and exciting. Suzuki’s #1 lacky, Taichi deserves a lot of credit here. His dirt bag cheating ways are always fantastic and every time he gets involved, you just can’t wait for someone to sock him, this match was no exception.
More after the jump.
3 Corners IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title Match:
Prince Devitt defeated Low Ki & Kota Ibushi via Top Rope Bloody Sunday on Ibushi – 14:45
NJPW has historically had a horrible time with 3 way matches but that was not the case this time, this match was superb! The three top Jr’s in NJPW went back and forth in a completely unpredictable match, Low Ki even rocked a sweet Agent 47 suit the whole match. This match had 30 minutes of action crammed into 15 so maybe it suffered a little bit from too much too soon, with no pacing to let the fans soak everything in. but that’s just nitpicking really.
Special Tag Match:
Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima defeated Keiji Muto & Shinjiro Otani via Moonsult from Tenzan on Otani – 15:36
Originally supposed to be Daichi Hashimoto’s New Japan debut, turned into a tag team master class when Otani replaced an injured Daichi. Four professors of puroresu like Muto, Otani, Kojima & Tenzan blended perfectly in this match. It hit all the right notes, wasn’t drawn out or off pace, literally a perfect tag match for old school fans and seeing young Daichi getting in Tenzan’s face post match was great.
Special Singles Match:
Togi Makabe defeated Katsuyori Shibata via King Kong Kneedrop – 8:37
Shibata’s big singles return match was easily the biggest shock of the night, because just about everyone expected him to win and go on to feud with old rival Shinsuke Nakamura. But it seems like Shibata still isn’t forgiven for walking out years ago and this was some political payback. None the less, the match was a really fun brawl with some real cringe worthy moments and the end was just brutal.
IWGP Intercontinental Title Match:
Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Kazushi Sakuraba via Boma Ye – 11:12
Sakuraba had his share of detractors in the wrestling community and after this match, they’ve all been Inoki slapped in the face. Sakuraba went back to his roots and put on the perfect old school Shoot Style match with Shinsuke, who also did a phenominal job and ate the hardest knee in wrestling history. The crowd was on fire for the whole match and the legitimate respect shown by both men made it that much better. It’s been a long time since the NJPW ring has seen such a high level display of Strong Style. Match of the night and an early contender for MOTY.
IWGP Heavyweight Title Match:
Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Kazuchika Okada via High Fly Flow – 33:34
After a year of build up and two of the most elaborate and spectacular entrances ever could this match possibly live up to expectations? The answer is a resounding hell yes! The match was a modern classic. It had a perfect sense of pacing, starting out as a slow build before escalating in to all out war with absolutely no way to tell who would leave with the belt. It was the golden boy Tanahashi who left with the belt and that left a bad taste in a few mouths but Okada pushed the #1 guy to his absolute limit, so his status has grown and a long title run won’t be too far away. Tanahashi will always have his detractors, for a number of reasons but he continues to win more people over by putting on classic after classic.
All images by sportsnavi.jp