Welcome to KB’s Old School (and New School) Reviews. I’ve been reviewing wrestling shows for over ten years now and have reviewed over 5,000 shows. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I’ll be posting a new review here on Wrestlingrumors.net, starting today. It could be anything from modern WWE to old school to indies to anything in between. Note that I rate using letters instead of stars and I don’t rate matches under three minutes as really, how good or bad can something that short be?
Wrestle Kingdom XIII
Date: January 4, 2019
Location: Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan
Commentators: Don Callis, Chris Charlton, Kevin Kelly
Well this is a big one. It’s the Japanese equivalent of Wrestlemania and the biggest non-WWE show of the year. This year’s card is absolutely stacked (tends to be the case) and while I’m not the biggest New Japan fan, there’s a very strong chance of this show being nothing short of incredible. Let’s get to it.
As always, please note that I don’t watch NJPW regularly. I know the basic stories and looked up a few things beforehand, but I’m going to miss some details and character motivations in some parts.
The winners get a Never Openweight Six Man Tag Team Title shot, I believe at tomorrow’s New Year’s Dash show. The Elite (Yujiro Takahashi, Marty Scurll and Hangman Page with Chase Owens in their corner) and Yuji Nagata/David Finlay/Jeff Cobb start things off with Cobb sporting a taped up shoulder. Scurll headscissors Nagata to start and gets smart by kicking the knee out instead of trying a slugout. The finger snap is broken up but so is Nagata’s reverse Figure Four.
Cobb comes in and gets triple teamed to the floor, with Page adding the shooting star from the apron. Back in and Cobb tosses Page in a fall away slam, allowing the tag to Finlay. Everything breaks down and Finlay hits a Rock Bottom backbreaker on Takahashi as everyone else heads to the floor. Owens grabs Finlay’s foot for a save but accidentally gets kicked down by Page. The distraction is enough for Finlay to roll Takahashi up for the pin and the elimination at 4:43.
Next up is Chuckie T/Beretta/Hirooki Goto with Goto and Nagata slugging it out in the middle. Chuckie and Beretta break it up and there’s a big flip dive from Chuckie onto Cobb and Finlay. Beretta adds an Asai moonsault onto both of them, leaving Goto to hit the fireman’s carry backbreaker for two on Nagata. Things settle down with Chuckie and Beretta getting in a huge to set up a double elbow drop.
Nagata scores with an exploder suplex and it’s off to Cobb to clean house. We get the big clotheslines from Cobb and Goto until some double teaming slows Cobb down. That’s fine with him as he suplexes both of them down without much effort. Chuckie’s piledriver gets two on Finlay but he misses the moonsault, allowing Finlay to grab a quick rollup for the pin at 13:40.
Minoru Suzuki and the Killer Elite Squad are in fourth and of course the brawl is on in a hurry. Nagata and Suzuki slug it out (well duh) with the revolving slaps until Nagata gets two off a t-bone suplex. Smith comes in but gets kicked in the leg, allowing the hot tag to Cobb for the hoss battle. The Angle Slam sets up the standing moonsault but Smith gets away as everything breaks down. The Killer Bomb finishes Finlay at 18:34.
Ryusuke Taguchi/Togi Makabe/Toru Yano are the final team so it’s time for COMEDY! The Squad beats the funny out of them in the aisle though and Suzuki goes after commentary due to reasons of evil. We settle down to Smith kicking Taguchi in the face, hitting the Hulk Hogan poses, and dropping a leg for two. Archer comes in for an Undertaker rope walk, though he spices it up a bit with a tag while on the ropes. It’s off to Suzuki, who actually gets knocked down so Makabe can come in for some power.
Suzuki runs him over again but the kicks seem to fire Makabe up. A double clothesline allows the double tag to Yano and Smith so Yano can go straight for the buckle pad. Archer comes in for the Hart Attack, followed by a side slam/middle rope splash combination for a near fall each. Suzuki tries the Gotch piledriver on Makabe but gets taken down by Taguchi’s hip attack. The Squad goes after Makabe but it’s a double low blow from Yano to set up the rollup pin on Smith for the title shot at 27:48.
Rating: C-. This was ok and a good way to get a bunch of people on the show without having a battle royal. I’m really not a fan of Yano (repetitive comedy gets old in a hurry) but the fans love him and that’s enough of a reason to give his team the win here. The length was fine and it’s an acceptable Kickoff Show match, which is exactly the right idea. Nothing great, but fine.
Video on the Best Of 2018, including various attendances for the bigger shows.
Ads for upcoming shows, including one in Dallas at the American Airlines Center on July 6 and a show in England on August 31. Also, next year’s New Year’s Dash will be in the Tokyo Dome as well.
We get the video running down the card, featuring the show order. This is rather stacked, as always.
Never Openweight Title: Will Ospreay vs. Kota Ibushi
Kota is defending and egads what an opener. They start with Ibushi being monkey flipped to the floor, leaving Ospreay to hit the superhero pose. Ibushi dives back in and blocks the Oscutter and we’re now forty five seconds in with a standoff. The kick to the chest misses Ospreay so Ibushi dropkicks him to the floor, only to miss the middle rope moonsault in a big crash as Ospreay somehow gets to the apron and kicks him out of the air.
The Space Flying Tiger Drop has Ibushi in even more trouble and a backbreaker gives Ospreay two. Ibushi is right back up with a hurricanrana to the floor, setting up a top rope corkscrew Asai moonsault (good grief) to drop Ospreay again. Back in and Ibushi nails a rolling German suplex but Ospreay scores with a handspring spinning kick to the head. Ospreay hits a Cheeky Nandos Kick for two more and it’s time to trade forearms. Ibushi gets the better of it but neither can hit a powerbomb.
Instead Osprey kicks him in the chest and grabs a Spanish Fly to put both of them down. Stormbreaker is countered into a hurricanrana for two and there’s the sliding knee to Ospreay’s head. The sitout Last Ride gives Ibushi two more but Ospreay catches him on top with the knee getting caught in the Tree of Woe. They slug it out from there (as in with Ibushi hanging upside down) until Ospreay kicks him in the face to take over.
What looked to be a super Stormbreaker is countered but Ospreay flips out of a German superplex, which seems to be a callback to a recent match. Ibushi’s straitjacket suplex gets two and they trade some heavy shots to the head. Stormbreaker is countered again into an exchange of counters, capped off by Ibushi hitting a kneeling tombstone. Somehow he’s up first and hits a heck of a running back elbow to the back of Ibushi’s head. Ibushi is DONE and the Stormbreaker gives Ospreay the pin and the title at 18:14.
Rating: B+. Well we’re off to a great start. This was an awesome “I hit something big then you hit something bigger” exchange with Ospreay being in his element with that style. Ibushi is still one of the best high fliers ever and looked great here, but Ospreay winning makes sense given how much star potential he has. Excellent opener with some very hard hitting action.
Ibushi is taken out on a stretcher and apparently had a legit concussion.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles: Roppongi 3K vs. Suzuki-Gun vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon
Suzuki-Gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru/El Desperado) are defending and Roppongi 3K (Sho and Yoh) has Rocky Romero in their corner. Los Ingobernables (Bushi/Shingo Takagi) start the brawl before the bell but get sent to the apron for the running flip dives from 3K. Kanemaru and Desperado break up a second set of dives and it’s Desperado chinlocking Yoh to take over. Back up and a superkick allows the tag to Sho as they’re certainly moving early on. An AJ Styles drop down into a dropkick hits Desperado and Shingo tags himself in and starts in with some hard strikes.
Sho German suplexes Shingo who German suplexes Kanemaru at the same time but Desperado nails a spear. 3K’s double jumping knees put Desperado down and a backbreaker/middle rope knee drop combination makes it even worse. With Desperado in trouble, 3K loads up….uh 3K actually but has to duck a double shot of whiskey and black mist, allowing Shingo to hit Sho with a Gory Bomb. The Big Bomber (hard lariat) gets two on Sho and Bushi dives onto Yoh. Last of the Dragon (a modified Samoan driver) gives Shingo the pin and the titles at 6:49.
Rating: C+. That was certainly short. It was entertaining while it lasted but they didn’t have time to do much. That being said, they crammed in as much as they could with 3K and Shingo looking like stars. This division has finally moved past the Young Bucks and the matches are a lot of fun. It might have been better with the less time here though as it didn’t have time to die down, which seems to be the point of a match like this.
Rev Pro British Heavyweight Title: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Ishii is defending and I saw him take the title from Sabre in New Orleans in an awesome match so this should be fun. Sabre’s manager Taka Michinoku handles the hype efforts before the match. Sabre goes straight for an abdominal stretch attempted but gets hiptossed out. An enziguri misses for Ishii and Sabre takes him down into a cross armbreaker, sending the champ to the ropes after some good cranking.
Sabre’s kicks to the chest are shrugged off so he slaps on another armbar to send Ishii right back to the ropes. Those cocky kicks to the side of Ishii’s head just wake him up (like Flair’s chops to Sting) but Sabre takes him over with a northern lights suplex. They trade ankle locks until Ishii shoulders the heck out of him for a breather. Another suplex takes Sabre down this time and the delayed vertical superplex keeps Sabre in trouble. He holds onto the arm though and stomps on it before crashing to the side because Sabre can do things like that.
An exchange of escapes goes into an Octopus Hold from Sabre, which he switches into a Code Red for two. The Zack (Michinoku) Driver is blocked and Ishii powerbombs the heck out of him for two of his own. Ishii’s hard lariat gets two but Sabre slips out of the brainbuster. Sabre’s bridging pin is only good for two more so it’s off to a guillotine with an armbar. Sabre switches it over to the double arm trap octopus, which is actually called Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than The Last; The Inexorable March Of Progress Will Lead Us All To Happiness (seriously) for the tap submission at 11:37.
Rating: B+. This needed more time to hit their full potential but the monster Ishii vs. the villain submission machine is one of the best combinations I’ve seen in a very long time. Sabre is so crazy smooth in the ring and Ishii is one of the best tough guy wrestlers I’ve seen in a long time. I could watch these two fight for months and this was another great one from both guys.
Sabre is presented with a new title.
IWGP Tag Team Titles: Young Bucks vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon vs. Guerrillas Of Destiny
The Guerrillas are defending with Los Ingobernables (Evil and Sanada here) having won the World Tag League. They then requested that the Bucks be added because they wanted to avenge past losses. The champs also have Bad Luck Fale and Jado in their corner. Tama and Matt start things off with Tama showing off his new “good guy” persona by offering a handshake.
Evil uses the distraction to tag himself in and pull Tama to the floor. Everything breaks down and Matt gets slammed onto the ramp to bring up his annual back injury. Back in and the Guerrillas beat up Evil with Loa hitting a top rope headbutt, only to have Tama’s version broken up. The Bucks get in their shots on Evil as well to continue his bad night. Matt grabs the Sharpshooter as Nick dives onto Sanada. Evil makes the rope and comes back with a running clothesline to Matt.
It’s off to Sanada to clean house on everyone, including the slingshot dive onto the Bucks. That’s enough selling from the Bucks though as they’re right back up with a springboard Blockbuster/Russian legsweep combination on Sanada but the Guerrillas come back in to start wrecking things (again). The Tower of Doom sends Matt back first onto the mat, leaving Nick to hit a 450. Fale and Jado come in and are dispatched by the Bucks just as quickly but Los Ingobernables get up for Everything Is Evil and the Magic Killer. Sanada moonsaults onto Nick for the pin and the titles at 10:16.
Rating: C+. This was similar to the Junior Tag Team Title match with a lot of stuff crammed in. That’s not the worst thing in the world but it’s another quick match in a series of them tonight. Evil and Sanada have been awesome for a long time now though and it makes sense to put the titles back on them. Now just keep the things on them for awhile this time around.
IWGP United States Title: Juice Robinson vs. Cody
Cody, in Jacksonville Jaguars colors for a nice touch, is defending and I think you know where this is going. A pre-bell belt shot misses and Juice starts hammering away until Cody grabs his knee. Juice isn’t buying it and stays on him with a gutbuster. That’s enough for Juice to go up top but Brandi covers Cody up to prevent the dive. Pulp Friction on the apron is broken up with a shove into the post and Juice is holding his shoulder. Back in and Cody busts out some jumping jacks before stopping for a kiss from Brandi.
Speaking of Brandi, she hits a spear with her bionic shoulder but the referee tosses her. Pulp Friction is countered into Cross Rhodes for a close two and Cody is getting frustrated. Another Pulp Friction is reversed into Cross Rhodes on Cody, who of course hits a Pulp Friction of his own for two more. Cody whips him with the weightlifting belt but tells Robinson to get up. That’s just what Juice does before hammering away with left hands. Pulp Friction connects and Robinson adds a second for the pin and the title at 9:05.
Rating: D+. Brandi aside, this was pretty bad with the match flying by and not having any time to do anything. It felt like they skipped the beginning and most of the middle and just went to the finish, which didn’t make for much of a match. Robinson getting the title back is fine, but egads can something other than the opener get fifteen minutes tonight?
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title: Taiji Ishimori vs. Kushida
Ishimori, of Bullet Club, is challenging here. And here’s a mini Kushida….and Doc Brown comes out to get him. Doc pulls out a remote control and seemingly blows mini Kushida up, turning him into the real thing. Eh I love Back to the Future so I’m good, even if that didn’t make much sense. Kushida starts in on the wristlock before kicking at the arm in a smart move. The cartwheel into the dropkick has Ishimori in even more trouble but it’s too early for the Hoverboard Lock.
Ishimori grabs the LeBell Lock in the middle of the ring and the crawl to the rope takes its time. A springboard seated senton keeps Kushida in trouble and the sliding German suplex, ala John Morrison, keeps Kushida down. Kushida grabs a triangle choke but Ishimori fights up and spins around for a failed Crossface attempt. A Tombstone into a Codebreaker is countered and Kushida kicks him down again. Another Codebreaker gives Ishimori two but Kushida reverses a suplex into the Hoverboard Lock.
That’s rolled through into an AA as Kushida isn’t able to do much with the rather unstoppable Ishimori. Kushida grabs a quick Back to the Future and tries another but Ishimori blocks (I’m not sure that’s how it’s supposed to work) so Kushida blasts him with a right hand. That’s shrugged off as well and the Bloody Cross gives Ishimori the title at 11:16.
Rating: B-. Geez this hasn’t been a good night for the champions so far. The problem for Kushida is there’s nothing left for him to do as a junior heavyweight so what is there left for him to do in the entire promotion? Ishimori looked like a killer here and could be a heck of a champion for a long time. Or until next Wrestle Kingdom when every champion loses again.
We recap Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White. Okada was the king of the company for a few years but manager/adviser Gedo turned on him in favor of White. That sent White onto a great heel run where he wants to prove that he’s the best and now it’s time for him to face the huge challenge. Also, Okada has been shaken up since losing the World Title but is back in form tonight.
Jay White vs. Kazuchika Okada
Okada’s trunks have returned, because it’s the old, amazing version again tonight. They don’t go straight at each other to start so Gedo distracts Okada and White stomps away. Okada is right back up with an elbow to the back of the head but White suplexes him out to the floor. Back in and White gets two off a belly to back suplex and we hit the cravate. Okada fights up and gets all ticked off though as the fans start getting into this again.
White gets sat on top for the dropkick to the floor, followed by a running big boot to send him over the barricade. Okada isn’t done and sends Gedo out next to White for a running crossbody to take them both down. Back in and Okada hits the Rainmaker pose but gets caught in a German suplex. A Rock Bottom gives White two but Blade Runner is blocked. It’s time to cheat as Gedo puts a chair in the ring and tries to come in, only to have the chair shot miss.
Okada scores with the dropkick but walks into a suplex onto the back of his head. Another Blade Runner is countered into a Tombstone for two as White’s kicking brings the fans back up to cheer for Okada. Yet another dropkick connects and it’s a series of counters until the Rainmaker connects. Okada isn’t done though and tries it again, only to get countered into the Blade Runner for the completely clean pin at 14:21.
Rating: B. That’s the kind of story to a match that this show has been needing with White beating Okada at his best (which was specified multiple times throughout the night). They made a star here and that’s exactly what they needed to do. It helps that I’ve been a White fan since I saw him debut in ROH so this was really cool to see. They told a story here and it’s the kind of career defining win that someone like White needs. Well done here with a very good story, especially with the usually cool Okada being out for revenge instead of the win because Gedo has gotten into his head. Very good all around here.
We recap Chris Jericho vs. Tetsuya Naito, which is a long running feud after Jericho took Naito’s Intercontinental Title. Jericho has since said that he scared Naito into his shell and gone into his usual Jericho awesomeness, attacking Naito at every chance and saying he’ll end Naito’s career. Naito has basically responded with “eh, it’s cool”, which fits him perfectly.
Intercontinental Title: Tetsuya Naito vs. Chris Jericho
Jericho is defending and this is No DQ. Since he’s Chris Jericho, he comes to the ring in a black hat, a spiked leather jacket and wearing Crow inspired face paint. In other words, it somehow suits him perfectly. Naito jumps him before the bell as payback for Jericho doing the same thing in their previous match. The referee rings the bell with them on the floor because he knows they’re not getting inside anytime soon.
Naito piledrives him on the ramp and takes him inside for the removal of a buckle pad. A hurricanrana takes Jericho (with the long hair again) down and a clothesline puts him right back on the floor. Naito’s dive is blocked with a kendo stick shot though and it’s time for the stick shots. The springboard dropkick knocks Naito off the apron and Jericho grabs a camera for some filming of the downed Naito. They head into the announcers’ area with Jericho hitting one of the scariest looking DDT’s I’ve ever seen, with Naito landing on the top of his head with a CRACK.
Jericho rings the bell but the referee won’t stop the match, even though Naito seems a bit dead. A high crossbody gives Jericho two and it’s time for some listening to the crowd, because Jericho knows how to be a huge villain. The Lionsault gets two and there’s the belly to back suplex into the arrogant cover for the same. Naito comes back with some right hands and shrugs off some kicks to the face.
Some spit in Jericho’s face sets up a neckbreaker for two but the Walls put Naito right back in trouble. Naito slips out and kicks Jericho away before hitting something like a pump handle suplex for two. Destino is reversed into the Walls again (Jericho: “ASK HIM!”) until Naito finds the kendo stick for the break. A baseball swing with the stick drops Jericho again but he scores with a Codebreaker for a close two. Some chairs are thrown in and piled up but the powerbomb onto them are countered into a DDT near them.
Naito hits his own Codebreaker for two and a German suplex onto the chairs makes it even worse. Destino is countered again though and Jericho shoves the referee (not really necessary) so a low blow can stop Naito. There’s the Codebreaker for a heck of a near fall so Jericho grabs the belt. That’s countered into a hot shot into the exposed buckle, setting up Destino for another white hot near fall. Naito blasts him with the belt and now Destino gives Naito the pin at 22:34.
Rating: A-. This felt more like the Jericho vs. Omega match as Jericho was the angry veteran who could still hang in there and show how vicious he could be. It was entertaining stuff with Naito showing that he could do it on this stage and win the big one over the veteran. I had a really good time with this and Naito came off like the star they want to make the future center of the promotion, which he pretty much is.
Jericho storms off as Naito is awarded the title.
We recap Kenny Omega vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP World Title. Champion Omega is the new breed while Tanahashi is the old dog who is having yet another career resurgence to prove that he’s still got it one more time. He won the G1 Climax tournament to earn the shot and Omega doesn’t seem to be taking him completely seriously while promising to destroy Tanahashi once and for all.
IWGP World Title: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kenny Omega
Omega is defending and has the Young Bucks with him, plus an NES inspired entrance to make him a bit more awesome. Tanahashi on the other hand has a cool ring jacket with the shape of the title cut out around the waist. There’s no major contact for the first minute and a half so Tanahashi gets in a slap. Omega drives him into the ropes so Tanahashi slaps him again. A very early attempt at the One Winged Angel is countered into an abdominal stretch before Tanahashi starts in on the knee.
They slap it out with Omega’s leg tied up and Omega gets in a shot of his own to take over. He starts hammering on the back as the announcers go over Tanahashi’s main event history, including talking about how bad business was when he took over the top spot. A running kick to the back sets up more slaps to the face and a belly to back sends Tanahashi to the floor. There’s a belly to back suplex onto the apron as Omega is a full on heel here. Tanahashi gets in a dropkick but Omega drives him back first into the apron to take over again.
They head into the Japanese announcers’ area with Omega running over a commentator and raising his hand as an apology. It’s table time with Omega setting one up on the floor before taking the fight back inside for the chop off. A dragon screw legwhip takes Omega down again and the middle rope Swanton gets two. Omega is fine enough to hit the running Fameasser and Tanahashi falls outside. It’s too early for the Rise of the Terminator so Tanahashi breaks it up, only to be thrown outside for the big running flip dive. Omega’s foot hits him in the face but Omega lands hard on the edge of the ramp.
Back in and Omega hits a pair of snapdragons and the first V Trigger (I’ll put the over/under at 15). The One Winged Angel is countered and Omega’s knee gives out. There’s another legwhip, followed by Twist and Shout into the Texas Cloverleaf to stay on the knee. For a flashback, a Styles Clash plants Omega but the High Fly Flow (sounds like a shower setting) hits knees. Another V Trigger hits the buckle though and a third dragon screw, this time over the rope, has Omega in more trouble.
The Sling Blade on the apron puts him down again and Tanahashi puts him on the table. Another High Fly Flow misses Omega though and they’re both near death outside. Back in again and Omega hits a top rope double stomp to the back. Two powerbombs get two each and the sitout version gets the same. The frustrated Omega chokes away so Tanahashi comes back with a Sling Blade and it’s time to slug it out again. Omega has to cover up until some knees to the ribs cut Tanahashi off.
Tanahashi shrugs off a German suplex but gets caught in a Sling Blade to switch things up. Omega drops a High Fly Flow of his own for two and there’s another V Trigger to rock Tanahashi again. A regular knee to the head is called a V Trigger and the reverse hurricanrana connects. The….whatevereth V Trigger connects but the One Winged Angel is countered into a reverse hurricanrana from Tanahashi.
A high crossbody sets up the real High Fly Flow for a crazy close two. Tanahashi goes up again and gets caught with another V Trigger. The super dragon suplex (with Tanahashi flipping over and landing on his face to avoid the whole broken neck thing) sets up another V Trigger but the One Winged Angel is countered into something like a leg lariat. Another Sling Blade sets up another High Fly Flow for the pin and the title in an upset at 39:14.
Rating: A. Very good though not outstanding match here. That might not be the biggest surprise given that Omega seems to be leaving the promotion soon, but it’s still a heck of a performance. Tanahashi getting the title back is a great story with him reclaiming his place at the top of the mountain, but it was still missing a little something that made the previous main events that much better. Still though, great match, as you knew was coming the second the match was announced. Oh and Omega kept the V Triggers to what is considered reasonable by his standards, which is quite the plus.
Post match Omega is carried out and Tanahashi gets the big show closing address. He thanks the fans and wasn’t sure he could get to this level again. Okada helped get him here and he can’t believe it. He thanks the fans one more time and uses everything he has left for some air guitar before collapsing. One final thank you wraps us up.
Overall Rating: A. First and foremost: the show was just over four hours long instead of the usual five and that’s pretty close to the sweet spot. I could have gone for some of the matches being longer, but I’ll take the show going short rather than long every time. The big matches all delivered and while there were a few weak spots (Cody’s match in particular), the great matches are more than enough to make this a classic. It’s the highest rating I’ve given the show in four years and it was also the easiest show to watch in a long time.
Overall this show felt like a changing of the guard/resetting, with every title changing hands. Maybe those titles go right back where they were soon enough, but it certainly seems that things are changing around here. Given the startup of AEW and WWE wanting new talent, we might not be seeing some of these people on this stage again. That makes things very interesting, but more importantly it means they get to go out on a high note. Great show, and the best I’ve seen them do in a long time.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his Amazon author page with 28 wrestling books. His latest book is the History Of In Your House.
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