Before I get into this, it’s confession time. Wrestle Kingdom 10 was my first experience of New Japan. I’ve seen matches here and there and I’m obviously aware of Nakamura, Okada, and Tanahashi while you’d have to be living under a WWE-sized rock to have missed Bullet Club (although even that seems to be changing). But until now, I have never sat down and watched a full New Japan show. So here’s my thoughts.
Let’s start with the negatives and the first one is only partly NJPW’s fault. The commentary team. Kevin Kelly and Matt Striker did a poor job on this show. I like both of these guys usually but they seemed more interesting in plugging their friends than selling the show. As a newbie to New Japan, and I doubt I was the only English speaker in this position, I needed them to sell the stories to me. They never did. Somehow, Yoshi Tatsu managed to be even worse. I don’t know if his English isn’t that good or he just didn’t want to be there, but no commentator should be answering a question with ‘yes’.
On a wrestling front, there was far too much interference, particularly in the first few matches. I get that that’s Bullet Clubs thing and they are still cool as fuck, but it gets tiring. Too many matches were being influenced by people not actually involved in them and on huge cards like this, that shouldn’t be happening.
I think it’s also fair to say there were just a few too many matches. This might link into the commentary team failing to sell the story to me, but I didn’t feel like all of them meant something. The 6 man tag for the NEVER Openweight 6 Man Titles was the prime example of this. The Briscoes connection to Toru Yano was never explained and that hurt the match.
Despite this, there was some incredible wrestling on this show. The opening four-way tag between the Bucks, ReDragon, Sydal and Richochet, and Roppongi Vice was unsurprisingly brilliant and the speed those teams work at is incredible. It was a total trainwreck of a match but it never stopped being entertaining. On the flipside, Tomohiro Ishii and Katsuyori Shibata just beat the crap out of each other. One of Striker’s better calls of the night was when he pointed out how long after the match these kinds of beatings effect wrestlers and I openly flinched at moments in this match. I don’t like wrestlers hurting each other but there was no denying this was entertaining.
Then there was Styles Nakamura, which was exactly what you’d hope for. If matches like the opening tag eschew psychology for entertainment, this grasped the perfect blend of the two. These two guys are incredible workers and watching them build this match was a genuine pleasure. Both appear to be on their way to WWE and I hope that the Big ‘E know exactly how good they are.
My lack of knowledge NJPW knowledge meant that I didn’t have the same connection to the Okada Tanahashi match as many others did. However, that doesn’t stop me appreciating a cracking wrestling match. This was more of a slog than the Styles Nakamura match with the working of the leg being the main focus of it. Yes, it was a bit strange to then have Okada’s dropkicks being such a key part of the finish, but that’s picking holes. For most of the match, Okada sold the leg beautifully and Tanahashi worked it well. This was just great wrestling and I look forward to watching it again.
My first taste of NJPW contained four cracking matches. While even those that weren’t great or were overreliant on interference never ceased to be entertaining. With the news that WWE are raiding New Japan of talent, you have to wonder what the future holds for this promotion. But if Wrestle Kingdom 10 is worth judging them by, then what they’ve got going on here should be more than enough.