Wrestle Kingdom IV at the Tokyo Dome
An Enhanced Review by Kevin Wilson
Date: January 4th, 2010
It is that time of the year again for the annual Tokyo Dome Show! This year the primary theme is New Japan vs. NOAH, as four matches feature the two promotions battling each other, including the invading Sugiura and Marufuji. Takayama also returns to try to defeat Nakamura for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, and lots of really old stars mix it up in a New Japan ring for hopefully the last time. TAJIJI and Akebono also make a special appearance. Here is the full card:
- Jushin Liger, Koji Kanemoto, and Okada vs. Super Strong Machine, Wataru Inoue, and Hirasawa
Let's jump to it.
Super Strong Machine, Wataru Inoue, and Hirasawa vs. Jushin Thunder Liger, Koji Kanemoto, and Okada
Match Thoughts: Fine for an opener. Hirasawa is still kinda not good, wonder if he will ever come around. Wish Okada could have had more of a role on this show since he had a pretty good year, but it's so hard to get a good match at the Dome as it wasn't like he was in the match with only chopped liver, I could say the same about Liger or Kanemoto. Acceptable wrestling with no real issues but perfectly missable. Score: 4.0
(c) Ryusuke Taguchi and Prince Devitt vs. Ultimo Guerrero and Averno
This gives him time to tag in Devitt, who hits a diving crossbody onto Guerrero. Irish whip to Averno, reversed, but Devitt delivers the Pele Kick. Averno falls out of the ring, Devitt goes off the ropes and nails a somersault tope suicida. Devitt goes back in the ring with a missile dropkick onto Guerrero, cover, but it gets a two count. Irish whip by Devitt to Guerrero into the corner, but Guerrero catches him and hits a front suplex from the second turnbuckle. Cover, but it gets a two count. Back up, Devitt kicks Guerrero but Guerrero nails an inverted suplex from the second turnbuckle. Cover, but Taguchi breaks it up. Taguchi stays in the ring as Averno comes in as well, Taguchi disposes of Averno but Guerrero chops him to the mat. Guerrero picks up Devitt but Devitt catches him with a jumping kick. Devitt makes the hot tag to Taguchi as Guerrero tags in Averno, elbow by Averno, Irish whip, and he drops Taguchi with a fireman's carry into an cutter for a two count. Taguchi avoids an Averno dropkick, Averno drops Taguchi onto the apron, Taguchi goes for a swandive hurricanrana but Averno catches him and powerbombs Taguchi to the mat. Averno picks up Taguchi and chops him into the corner, Irish whip, reversed, Averno goes up to the top turnbuckle but Taguchi joins him. Avalanche double underhook slam by Averno, cover, but Devitt breaks it up. Guerrero comes in the ring as well, but Devitt knocks him back and with Taguchi they delivers a double team move ending with a Devitt dropkick. They then grab Averno and do the same, this time ending with a Taguchi swandive dropkick. Double stomp by Devitt onto Guerrero and they nail Averno with the Black Hole Vacation. Cover, and Devitt picks up the three count. Your winners and still champions: Apollo55
Match Thoughts: I wish they could have gone longer but I enjoyed the hell out of this match.... I think one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much was the anti-Southern Tag Spots. I know some people love them but I like when matches do the opposite. In the match, Taguchi gets the hot tag as Guerrero tags in Averno, Taguchi charges Averno, and Averno just destroys him with a few moves. Taguchi briefly comes back, goes for swandive rana, BAM powerbombed. No hot tag for Apollo55. When matches surprise me and go against the norm, I like that (I am easily amused). Besides that the match had a lot of cool spots and for where it was on the card it definitely delivered. Plus I always enjoy seeing the Luchadors, Guerrero is always fun. Devitt has really improved in the last two years and is one of the most entertaining wrestlers that New Japan currently has. Great match. Score: 8.0
(c) Team 3D vs. Giant Bernard and Karl Anderson vs. Yujiro and Naito
Low blow by Bubba and they trade kicks, NO LIMIT return, but Bubba and Bernard are immune to their weapon shots. They eventually lariat down Yujiro and Naito before hitting lariats on each other. All wrestlers have returned as Yujiro and Naito hit diving crossbodys on Devon and Anderson, but they get a two count. Bubba smacks everyone with a roadside sign, then with Devon he hits a vertical suplex onto Bernard. WASSUP by Team 3D onto Bernard, and Devon goes to get a table. They get two into the ring, one set up near the corner and another set up by a different corner. They grab Anderson, Bubba gets onto the second turnbuckle and Anderson is powerbombed through the table. Naito gets in the ring, Bubba goes to the second turnbuckle to powerbomb and he gets powerbombed through a table as well. They set up a third, but Bernard has returned and lariats both of them. Yujiro gets in the ring and elbows Bernard, but Bernard throws him out of the ring. Bernard sets up a table at ringside, he puts Yujiro on it, goes up to the second turnbuckle and hits a splash down onto Yujiro, crushing him. Bernard gets back in the ring and is hit by a sign by Team 3D, they set up a table to powerbomb him through a table as well, but Bernard has none of that and chokeslams Devon through the table for a two count. Bernard kicks a sign back into Bubba's face, another cover, but again he gets two. Naito comes in the ring and knocks down Bernard, chops by Anderson onto Naito, they have a bit of a miscommunication but Anderson hits Naito with a spinebuster followed by a cutter for a two count. Anderson and Devon trade shots, and Anderson is dropped with the 3D. Cover, but Bernard breaks it up. Bubba and Devon attack Bernard on the outside, while in the ring NO LIMIT hits the Limitless Emotion on Anderson and pick up the three count cover! Your winners and new champions: NO LIMIT
Match Thoughts: Allow me to list the things wrong with this match:
1. Team 3D had the belts for the bulk of the year, and still didn't lose them at the end.
That sums it up, although I was happy when I read the result that NO LIMIT won, the manner in which they did (getting beat up most the match and not pinning one of the dominating wrestlers) made it come across as flat. Hopefully now the tag belts can go back to being defended in entertaining matches for the first time since 2008 though, so at least something good did come out of it. Right winners, completely the wrong way. Score: 3.0
Yuji Nagata and Akebono vs. TAJIRI and Masato Tanaka
Match Thoughts: Besides feeling bad for Akebono who didn't look very comfortable, this was a decent match. The heels played the part of heels well, and when I first read the result I was surprised with Nagata getting pinned, but taking a mist+Sliding D+Buzzsaw Kick in pretty quick succession is a fitting ending. Too short to get excited about, but an acceptable mid-card match. Score: 5.5
Terry Funk, Choshu, Masahiro Chono, and Nakanishi vs. Abdullah The Butcher, Toru Yano, Takashi Iizuka, and Ishii
Meanwhile, Abdullah is choking Yano at ringside while people try to get him off. A very good use of Abdullah.
Match Thoughts: About as good as it could have been. Abdullah sure was over with the live crowd, not that some of the other old wrestlers weren't but he in particular got some nice pops, especially when he used Iizuka's iron claw. Besides having trouble walking (which has been a problem for a good 15 years) Funk looked good here as he brought his usual intensity and didn't just mail it in. Abdullah turning on his team mates was a fun moment, and everyone played their roles well. Strange when a very overweight nearly 70 year old wrestler is the most over wrestler on the card up to this point, but thus is the world of professional wrestling. Score: 6.0
Togi Makabe vs. Mohammed Yone
Match Thoughts: Ok, going in we all know this wasn't going to be a technical masterpiece, as both Makabe and Yone are wrestlers that need some help from their opponents to be entertaining. The match time was nice (under 6 minutes) but they still managed to be repetitive as by my count there was 10 lariats hit which is an average of about one every 33 seconds (most of which weren't hit very well). Choshu would be proud. Didn't help matters that Makabe missed the King Kong Kneedrop at the end, guess Yone rolled too far after the German suplex. I have no idea why this singles match took place, they could have made it more interesting by making it an inter promotional tag (although I dunno if Makabe/Honma vs. Yone/Rikio would have been any better), but at least it was short. Score: 4.0
(c) Tiger Mask vs. Naomichi Marufuji
Back up, knee by Tiger Mask and he goes up to the top turnbuckle, but Marufuji has recovered and kicks him off with Tiger Mask landing on the apron. Marufuji swandives off the side ropes to dropkick Tiger Mask as he crawls back into the ring, Marufuji goes for an kick over the top rope but Tiger Mask kicks him in the leg as he comes over and both wrestlers flop to the floor. Both wrestlers slowly get up and trade kicks, but Marufuji knocks down Tiger Mask with a lariat. They finally make it back into the ring at 19, high kick by Tiger Mask in the corner and he hits a modified brainbuster for a two count. Tiger Mask goes for a tiger suplex but Marufuji elbows him off, but Tiger Mask puts Marufuji onto the top turnbuckle. Tiger Mask joins him but Marufuji pushes him off. High kick by Tiger Mask while Marufuji is still up top, Tiger Mask climbs up the ropes as well and nails an Avalanche Tiger Driver. Cover, but Marufuji barely gets a shoulder up. Tiger Mask picks up Marufuji and goes for a tiger suplex, Marufuji lands on his feet, but Tiger Mask tries again and this time gets it for a two count. Kick by Tiger Mask and he delivers the moonsault double knee, cover, but it gets a two count. Chickenwing armlock by Tiger Mask, they get back to their feet and Tiger Mask plants Marufuji with the Millennium Suplex. Tiger Mask drags Marufuji to his feet and goes for the Destroyer Suplex, but Marufuji pushes him off. Superkick by Marufuji in the corner followed by a slap and another super kick. Marufuji picks up Tiger Mask and puts him onto the top turnbuckle, he then joins him and delivers the Shiranui Kai. Cover, but Tiger Mask kicks out. Both wrestlers slowly get up but Marufuji grabs Tiger Mask and hits another super kick. Marufuji picks up Tiger Mask and drops him with the Tiger Frosion, cover, and he picks up the three count! Your winner and new champion: Naomichi Marufuji
Match Thoughts: This match was quite fun, Marufuji is one of my favorite wrestlers and Tiger Mask was game, which is always a special occasion. First about Tiger Mask, he looked actually motivated for a change and gave Marufuji everything he had, including his Millennium Suplex and an excellent Avalanche Tiger Driver that I haven't seen him hit before. Of course, it was Marufuji that kept the pace up in the match and while I agree with others that he does a lot of super kicks, otherwise his offense is generally almost constantly evolving and he keeps things interesting. Probably the best Tiger Mask match I have seen in years, very entertaining match. Score: 7.5
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Go Shiozaki
Shiozaki chops Tanahashi down in the corner and delivers a running knee. Shiozaki goes up to the second turnbuckle but Tanahashi avoids the diving knee. Tanahashi punches Shiozaki against the ropes, Irish whip, reversed, but Tanahashi hits the jumping elbow for a two count. Waistlock by Tanahashi, Shiozaki elbows out of it but Tanahashi delivers a chop block. Tanahashi goes off the ropes but Shiozaki catches him with a chop, another chop by Shiozaki, Tanahashi ducks the third and goes for a sling blade, but Shiozaki moves out of the way and drops him with a release German suplex. Superkick by Shiozaki, he goes off the ropes but Tanahashi catches him with the sling blade. Back up they trade strikes, elbows by Tanahashi and he goes for a Tiger Driver, Shiozaki blocks it so Tanahashi hits a butterfly suplex followed by a pair of sling blades. Tanahashi goes up to the top turnbuckle and goes for the High Fly Flow, but Shiozaki gets his knees up. Elbow by Tanahashi in the corner, Shiozaki chops him back and hits on the top turnbuckle, but Tanahashi grabs his leg. Slap by Tanahashi, he goes to the second turnbuckle but Shiozaki picks him up and slams him off for a two count cover. Shiozaki waits for Tanahashi to get on one knee and hits a chop and a lariat, cover, but again it gets two. Shiozaki goes off the ropes and nails a lariat, cover, but Tanahashi kicks out. Shiozaki picks up Tanahashi, scoop slam in front of the corner and he hits the moonsault, cover, but again Tanahashi gets a shoulder up. Shiozaki picks up Tanahashi and goes for the Go Flasher, but Tanahashi blocks it. Kick to the knee by Tanahashi, Shiozaki goes for a lariat but Tanahashi hits the trapped German suplex hold for a two count. Both wrestlers slowly get up and they trade elbows, then uppercuts and chops, and Shiozaki knocks down Tanahashi with a rolling chop. Shiozaki picks up Tanahashi and hits the short arm lariat, cover, but it only gets a two count. Shiozaki picks up Tanahashi and goes for the Go Flasher but Tanahashi reverses it with a dragon suplex hold for a two count. Tanahashi goes off the ropes and hits a sling blade, dropkick to the knee by Tanahashi and he hits a Falcon Arrow for a two count. Tanahashi quickly goes to the top turnbuckle and and hits the High Fly Flow, he then goes up top again and delivers a second one. Cover, and he picks up the three count. Your winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi
Match Thoughts: Besides a few spots of sloppiness, which isn't too surprising with wrestlers that aren't too familiar with each other, I thought this was a really entertaining match. Both these wrestlers have got "it," and while I am not claiming they are the next coming of Inoki I think both of their respective promotions have a definite ace for the next 5-10 years. Shiozaki and Tanahashi have the intangibles down pat, but they also brought the goods with solid strikes and an exciting final few moments. Unlike the next match, they stayed with the same direction from start to finish with each wrestler progressively trying more powerful maneuvers to get the win while at the same time not forgetting about the leg work Tanahashi did as he did use it to his advantage at various points in the match. Not to exaggerate but it felt like I was watching the future of puroresu and I think in years to come if the promotions stay on good terms that these two could have technically better matches in the future. Score: 7.5
(c) Takashi Sugiura vs. Hirooki Goto
Goto picks up Sugiura, slam in front of the corner and he goes up to the top turnbuckle, hitting an elbow drop to the back of the head. Goto picks up Sugiura again but Sugiura flops back to the mat. Cover, but it gets a two count. Goto drags Sugiura to his feet and goes off the ropes, nailing a lariat. Cover, but Sugiura kicks out at one. Lariat to the back of the head by Goto, cover, but Sugiura gets a shoulder up. Goto picks up, Sugiura slides down his back, Goto goes off the ropes but Sugiura doesn't go down after a lariat. Slap by Sugiura but Goto levels him with a lariat for a two count. Backdrop suplex by Goto, but that also gets a two count. Goto picks up Sugiura and delivers a beautiful delayed Shouten, but it also gets a two count. Goto picks up Sugiura and goes for a death valley driver, Sugiura slides down his back but Sugiura suplexes him into the corner. Sugiura is up first and hits a running knee in the corner to Sugiura, but Goto catches the second one. Goto picks up Sugiura but Sugiura slides down his back and applies the ankle hold. Goto quickly gets to the ropes, Sugiura picks him up and hits a German suplex which he then rolls through and delivers a dragon suplex hold for a two count. Sugiura picks up Goto and goes for the Olympic Slam, Goto gets out of it but Sugiura knees him in the face. Sugiura goes for it again but Sugiura reverses it into his modified armbar. Sugiura eventually gets a foot on the ropes and Goto has to break the hold. Kicks to the midsection by Goto, Sugiura elbows him back and they trade strikes. Sugiura wins the slap battle but Goto hits a headbutt, he goes off the ropes but Sugiura catches him with a German suplex. Ankle Hold by Sugiura, Goto stands back up and gets out of the hold and they trade slaps again. Sugiura gets the better of it, he picks up Goto and plants him with an Olympic Slam. Cover, but Goto quickly kicks out. Sugiura gets Goto up and knees him in the head, cover, but Goto gets a shoulder up. Sugiura applies the Ankle Hold and he gets Goto in the grapevine, and Goto has to submit! Your winner and still champion: Takashi Sugiura
Match Thoughts: A good match but a step down from the previous matches. The bulk of the match was fine, the crowd was into it and it was very hard hitting. But I've never been a fan of wrestlers going for submission wins with no set-up. Sugiura was doing a good job dropping Goto on his head but he did nothing in the first 17 minutes to hurt the leg or ankle of Goto. I thought they were going for a big move finish (avalanche Olympic Slam for example) rather then a submission ending since that was the theme of the match up to that point. So besides the ending which took a bit of it out for me, the rest was fun although I still think Goto does the no selling too much as a transition from defense to offense. Still good, just not as great as I was hoping it would be. Score: 6.0
(c) Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Yoshihiro Takayama
Knees to the stomach by Nakamura to a downed Takayama, cover, but it gets almost a two count. Nakamura picks up Takayama, knees to the stomach and he hits a German suplex for a two count. Back up they trade strikes, Nakamura goes for the cross armbreaker and gets it applied, but Takayama wiggles to the ropes and forces a break. Kicks to the arm by Nakamura but Takayama catches one and kicks Nakamura in the side. Backdrop suplex by Takayama and he hits a jumping knee in the corner followed by a double underhook suplex. Cross armbreaker by Takayama but Nakamura gets a foot on the ropes. Repeated knees to the chest by Takayama, Nakamura goes out to the apron but Takayama brings him back in with a dragon suplex. Cover, but Nakamura gets a shoulder up. German suplex hold by Takayama for a two count, but Nakamura quickly grabs the arm and goes for the cross armbreaker again. Takayama kicks his way out of it and knees Nakamura hard in the face when he goes for a takedown. Nakamura loves those sliding knees to the face, I should have seen it coming. Nakamura is a little loopy but recovers at the referee's 8 count, and he knees Takayama in the stomach and then in the back. Both wrestlers are slow to get up with Nakamura up first, and he applies a sleeper hold. Takayama slams Nakamura back in the corner but Nakamura hits a hard slap. Takayama comes back with a punch and the two trade blows, with Nakamura connecting with a high kick followed by a running knee. Takayama blocks the Boma Ye but Nakamura knees him with the other leg. Boma Ye by Nakamura, cover, and he picks up the three count. Your winner and still champion: Shinsuke Nakamura
Match Thoughts: This match is actually a good example as to why I prefer Tanahashi as an ace rather then Nakamura. Here, Takayama brought it 100%, and was without a doubt the wrestler that looked the strongest coming out. His strikes were on point and came at a furious pace, to the point the crowd was actually behind him at times. This isn't the first time that Nakamura has been against an invader and wasn't the crowd favorite, but at least last time it was against a New Japan trueborn. In the crowd's defense, I wasn't buying it either, as everything Nakamura did, Takayama did better. Better punches, better knees, more toughness, and more charisma. That being said, the match was good. It was just hard for me to ignore that Takayama's strikes looked better but he lost to a Nakamura knee, I almost wish in this case Nakamura had won with something else then the Boma Ye. So I enjoyed it, I just don't think it had the intended purpose. Score: 6.5
Best Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Go Shiozaki. I rated the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship match higher, but I think this match will have more long term significance. The two stars for opposing promotions gave it their all in this match, and while it was a bit sloppy in a few parts the crowd stayed into it and they had the "star power" to overcome any shortcomings. The strikes were crisp and the match slowly led to the climax which came at the right time as the match didn't seem too short or too long. Shiozaki was really channeling Kobashi here with the rolling chop and short arm lariat, and it all fit in perfectly to create a very entertaining match.
MVP: Naomichi Marufuji. Prince Devitt, Takayama, and Tanahashi all could have been the MVPs, but Marufuji pulling a big title win and getting a good match out of Tiger Mask gives him the nod. Winning a title by itself is an MVP-worthy accomplishment, but awakening the Tokyo Dome crowd after a lackluster Yone/Makabe match is even more of a daunting task. Per usual Marufuji was crisp with his execution and he had one of the best matches on the card.
Overall: From top to bottom this was a great card. It had two entertaining Jr. Heavyweight title matches, most of the NOAH vs. New Japan matches delivered, and even the old timers had a memorable match. There were a few stinkers as there always are on big cards, but here the good far outweighed the bad. The main event might not have accomplished its intended purpose but watching Takayama destroy Nakamura with strikes was really fun. Definitely a recommendation to watch, and if you are a fan of New Japan already then track this down as soon as you can as it is not one you'll want to miss.