The whirlwind, emotional climax to New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 12: A Recap/Review, Part 2

Continued from Part One:

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Marty Scurll ( C) vs. Hiromu Takahashi vs. KUSHIDA vs. Will Ospreay

Not to be outdone by Takahashi’s stuffed cat buddy Daryl sporting a new luchador mask, Scurll comes down to the ring not just wearing his traditional mask and top hat, but a massive pair of black raven wings. This dude just comes off like a total star, he just has such presence.

 

 

Ospreay starts off strong by climbing up the barricade and hitting a big diving moonsault to the other three, but he can’t put KUSHIDA away. Marty tries to get Ospreay to tap early to his chickenwing hold, but KUSHIDA has Hiromu in an armlock at the same time, leaving the referee befuddled as which hold to call.

It almost feels like there are too many spots to keep up with at points, but this match is like a connected anthology of short stories being told. KUSHIDA breaks up another chickenwing attempt on Ospreay with a moonsault, but his attempt to give Hiromu Back To The Future just gets him belly-to-bellied in the turnbuckle, while Ospreays attempt at a shooting star press on KUSHIDA allows Scurll to give him a pumphandle neckbreaker.

And like a true villain, he tapes Hiromu to the railing and snaps his fingers, after he steals Will’s trademark OsCutter move for a two count. KUSHIDA and Ospreay then snap HIS fingers for some karmic justice.

 

 

Will winces in pain after he has to counter KUSHIDA’s Hoverboard lock attempt with a turnbuckle powerbomb, but still manages to break up KUSHIDA’s pin attempt after Marty’s attempt to throw powder in KUSHIDA’s face gets him Back To The Futured.

Hiromu gives Scurll and Will sunset powerbombs, then a Time Bomb on Scurll for two. The U.K wrestlers briefly team up on Hiromu, but Takahashi gives Will a missile dropkick, then KUSHIDA gives HIM a sunset powerbomb. Somehow, Hiromu survives Ospreay’s imploding 450.

 

 

Marty robs Hiromu of the victory when he pulls the referee out of the ring, and whacks everyone in the vicinity with his umbrella. Ospreay won’t be denied by his longtime foe this night, though, and he slams Scurll with a Spanish Fly and the OsCutter- making him the 80th IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion. Daryl’s heartbroken, but as Kevin Kelly pointed out, he does have a wife and the new kittens back home to look forward to.

 

IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi ( C)  vs Jay White

 

No longer a scrappy Young Lion, Jay White’s return from his excursion with a new dark heel persona called “Switchblade”, and he looks like a combination of every cool bishonen bad guy from 1990’s anime. Next to Tanahashi and his own outrageous hair, it’s like two Square Enix characters fighting each other with their fists and feet instead of swords and magic.

The story of this match is basically White targeting Tana’s injuries he’s acquired, using his youth and power to his advantage as he crushes him with a saito suplex and works the legend’s ACL with a deathlock.

 

 

Tana sells his leg by smacking it even on things like a Russian legsweep, and still manages to hit a second rope senton for two. He hits a couple of dragon screws and a High Fly Flow from the top rope to the outside, aggravating his banged up knee even further. White responds with a NASTY gutwrench german suplex that puts Tana right on his head, then he spikes him with a brainbuster on the ring apron.

When he screams at Tana to “show me The Ace!”, he gets a hard slap, but White gives him another hard suplex and what’s basically John Cena’s Attitude Adjustment for a near-fall.

 

 

White tries to counter another High Fly Flow with a superplex, but Tanahashi manages a super-Twist ‘n Shout, and responds to another brutal White suplex with two Sling Blades and a High Fly Flow, but a second attempt allows White to lock in the crucifix. A Kiwi Crusher only gets two, and his Blade Runner move (basically Bray Wyatt’s Sister Abigail) is countered by Tanahashi by a dragon suplex for two. He smacks White again before connecting with back-to-back High Fly Flows to retain his Intercontinental Title.

This match felt a little slow in spots, but I generally thought it was a good showing for White, who got to look effectively strong against the iconic Tanahashi.

 

IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship, No Disqualification: Kenny Omega ( C) vs. Chris Jericho

 

 

I’m becom- I’m-becom-becomingi-i-ing…Judas in, Judas in my mind, blares Jericho’s new Fozzy performed-theme as he walks the aisle. Oh, he became something in this match all right. I can’t stop chuckling at Omega’s insane Stargate-related entrance gear. He looks like Lucario showed up to the Tokyo Dome with a massive gun. The setup for this match is incredibly straightforward- Chris isn’t happy about Kenny claiming he’s the best wrestler in the world, and he plans to beat his opinion into the face of Bullet Club’s eccentric leader.

Omega’s emotions get the better of him to start when Jericho dodges his dive to the outside and he crashes through a table. Jericho is utterly merciless throughout this match, abusing referees and Young Boys ringside (one of them the son of Red Shoes Unno, as he’s well-aware of- “LOOK AT YOUR SON!” he screams) with sadistic glee. There are a few fans chanting “Y2J”, but the legend from Winnipeg is generally a full-bore heel to this Tokyo Dome crowd. He reaches a new level of aggression here in this match that I haven’t seen from him in his WWE runs often.

 

 

Though Omega recovers long enough to stomp a table into Y2J’s ribs, Jericho hits him with a snap suplex on the outside, but his Lionsault attempt back inside hits Kenny’s knees. He then powerbombs Omega on the floor, then crabs a camera and flips it the bird while snapping it, then gives Omega a diving back elbow, a missile dropkick and a Lionsault for two counts. He brings back his classic “CMON BABAY” taunt on a pin, and the levels of dickishness are completely off the charts. Omega’s been as diabolically evil as a wrestling character could be all 2017, but he fights back like a classic hero with a successful dive on Y2J.

Jericho gets caught with a V-trigger after a few more exchanges, but Omega gets trapped in the Walls before he makes the ropes. The cold spray bottle returns, and Jericho gets the worst of it. He rams Omega’s face into a chair for payback, and blows kisses to the crowd and flips them the bird as he bloodies Omega’ face. Holy shit, Jericho is one of the GOATs that people don’t talk about enough.

 

 

A V-Trigger, a heel kick and three dragon suplexes finally give Omega an opening, but Jericho just throws the chair at Kenny’s head and then he just starts wailing on him with it. Omega then responds by V-Triggering Jericho on the turnbuckle, sending him crashing through a table to the outside. That’s a nice callback to the spot in the Okada/Omega match that main-evented WK11 last year.

More V-Triggers and a J-Driller get a near fall, but Y2J reverses the One-Winged Angel into the Walls. I’m totally convinced Omega is going to tap here, but somehow he makes the ropes, again. Good lord, this MATCH. Jericho’s got a nasty laceration from going through that wood table.

One more V-Trigger and Omega finally gets the One-Winged Angel, but Jericho gets the ropes himself in another spot I could have sworn would be the finish. Chris goes for a top rope hurricanrana, but Omega blocks and goes for You Can’t Escape, before Y2J hits the Codebreaker for another close two. Kenny then counters a Lionsault with a One-Winged Angel on the steel chair to retain the US Title, which I’m pretty sure gained a ton of prestige now.

 

 

This match was INSANE, and perhaps an early strong frontrunner for Match Of The Year. Omega’s delivered two legendary performances in back-to-back Wrestle Kingdoms now. And I’m beyond impressed by how Jericho, even at age 47, has somehow reimagined his character to something fresh yet again. These two knew they had a lot to prove given the hype leading up to WK12, and they left it all in the Dome.

 

IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada (C) vs. Tetsuya Naito

 

I’m not sure which was more controversial, the outcome of this match or Okada’s new ring gear. Going into the event, Naito had expressed his frustration over his championship opportunity being billed as part of a “double main event” alongside Jericho/Omega during his MVP press conference. (Of course, Jericho was quick to answer back).

The reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion has abandoned his short trunks for WK12, opting instead for elaborately detailed long pants with a Macho Man style fringe. It’s as if Okada was watching WrestleMania IX and thought to himself, “man, this show sucks, but that Randy Savage guy looks pretty cool.”

Naito does a ton of stalling early on, before luring Okada to the outside and hitting him with a nasty neckbreaker using the railing for assistance, then hitting another one on the apron before a missile dropkick for two. He’s approaching this match with good amount of bitterness, spitting on the champion in the corner and working Okada’s neck with a cravate. The Rainmaker answers back with a vicious looking DDT, a running boot and a VINTAGE style Orton-style DDT on the floor, but Naito goes right back to Okada’s neck to regain control and nails him with a death drop for two.

 

 

Okada then gets a flapjack, the Strong Zero neckbreaker, a slam and flying elbow, then hooks in the Cobra Clutch he learned specifically for this match to counter Naito’s Destino move. Given Naito’s popularity and how the New Japan announcers are willing to acknowledge it, it really feels like Okada’s heeling it up for a good portion of the crowd- the Dome feels incredibly divided, like a John Cena/PM Punk match.

Naito manages to get a rope break, then hits a sweep, another neckbreaker and a brutal reverse frankensteiner, followed by Gloria. There’s nobody home on the Stardust Press though, and the two exchange stiff forearms. Naito hits a cartwheel kick, but Okada follows with a dropkick out of the corner that looks like a shot from a cannon, then Naito gets the flying forearm. Wow. Okada whips on a missile dropkick, but recovers long enough to hit a sick german suplex on Naito. I love how Naito is holding onto the corner for dear life.

 

 

A Rainmaker lariat gets two, and Okada is just toying with him at this point. He goes back to the cobra clutch, but Naito finally connects with Destino. The two are exhausted at this point and trade forearm shots, then Naito spits on Okada again and delivers what might be the hardest slap of the night- and that’s saying something.

Naito gets a DDT for two, but Okada gets another Rainmaker. He goes for a third, but Naito gets Destino for…..two. For a split second, I was convinced beyond a DOUBT that would end it.

 

 

Okada then gets the trademark dramatic dropkick and the tombstone piledriver. He signals for a Rainmaker, but Naito gets Destino, then goes for a second one, but Okada counters with the jumping tombstone and another Rainmaker to retain the title. I don’t know if I liked this match as much as the first Okada/Omega one, but this got crazy exciting towards the end. It was much more methodically paced than the madness that was Omega vs. Jericho, and it felt like the story was rooted more in the psychological battle between Naito and Okada.

So the question is, who’s left to challenge Okada now? Is this too much of a Superman reign? After well over 500+ days with barely any losses, I can see why people are upset with Naito not pulling out the victory. This event on paper does seem like a perfect setup to finally give him a long title reign- Los Ingobernables are certainly pulling in enough merchandise sales to justify giving Naito the title for a while.

On the other hand, Okada’s been a great draw as champion, and the announcers are going so far as to say “he may go down as the best professional wrestler ever.” I like Okada’s work and all, and he’s putting together a damn fine catalog of great matches (and some underrated promo work), but that’s a large claim this early into his career. I certainly hope he stays healthy enough to answer that question, though.

 

 

My final thoughts: Well, I’m certainly interested in how New Japan can keep this momentum going. They were able to draw in the largest crowd to the Tokyo Dome for a wrestling show in fifteen years, and they more than delivered on providing drama throughout the matches and defying my expectations. It’s remarkable how this roster and these bookers are able to remain so ahead of the curve in terms of in-ring action and simple but captivating characters.

If you’re a Tetsuya Naito fan (as I am), the climax will probably rip your heart out, while if you’re part of Team Rainmaker (as I also am) you’ll be over the moon with the result. But there’s still a number of booking options they could take with Okada’s record-breaking title reign. He’s not going to hold it forever.

Overall, so far I think New Japan is still putting on some fascinating, fun and uncomplicated wrestling, something I think the often convoluted business of pro wrestling badly needs. When it comes to serving as a good alternative to WWE’s product (which I also enjoy), they’re doing a much better job than TNA/Impact Wrestling ever could. Strongly recommended!