1. It’s 2015 and I’m seeing Jeff Jarrett hit his own partner with a guitar by mistake. As a member of Bullet Club. It’s wildly uncanny. I have to assume this is akin to Papa Carter adding a clause that Dixie always be a part of TNA television. Global Force Wrestling obviously snuck a line into the contract that mandated Double J get to join the cool kids club and bring a dozen guitars with him. Whacky.
2. The presentation of this show was excellent. The look of the show was as high class as it gets. The best part? No shaky camera nonsense like WWE so graciously gives us weekly. The camera angles themselves were interesting and dynamic in the best way. Replays were quick, only where they truly should be and didn’t get in the way. The commentary was pretty good too, but we’ll get to that later…
3. Onto the good stuff. The four way tag match for the IWGP Jr Tag Titles was a brilliant way to start WK9. High energy, spots where needed (Meltzer Driver!!) and the greatest tag team in the world right now retains with Chasing the Dragon. Keeping both sets of Tag Titles on reDRagon keeps incredible momentum on them. Any time they’re in the ring with Forever Hooligans, Time Splitters OR Young Bucks it’s a great show. Put all of them in there and you get a crowd starter.
4. The NOAH crossover 8 man tag. With the possible exception of the Jarrett match, this was the lowlight of the show. Given, the lowlight of WK9 was significantly better than anything WWE produces. The downside of this match was having names like Shelton Benjamin present and unable to be showcased. With an 8 man tag, you need time for everyone to shine. There was a young tag team present, prime to be made stars and even they barely seemed to get involved. Not to be down on this match – I’m not. Compared to the rest of an absolutely stellar show though, this one paled in comparison.
5. The KO/Submission match between Sakuraba and Suzuki was the most brutal thing on this show. It was of the “worked shoot” style which a lot of people don’t like (Remembering being present for Kyle O’Reilly vs Adam Cole in the Hybrid rules match and how quick the crowd turned on it early on…), but it was incredibly entertaining. One of the best parts of this fight was how much Jim Ross seemed to sincerely enjoy it. The contrast of the goofy Jarrett spot, the highly technical last three matches and this fight highlight how fun this show is due to variety. A WWE show? Same match 6 times with different bodies. WK9? Something for everyone (spoilers: It’s all for everyone).
6. Apparently the beatings were meant to be put back to back on this show. Makabe and Ishii beat the ever loving hell out of each other for the NEVER title. NEVER is an odd title – Introduced with the idea of being for the young lions, often not signed to NJPW, it’s only been held by older heavyweights. I’ve sort of associated Ishii with the title for quite some time so for my first major NJPW event to see it shift to Makabe was a bit of a let down. Ideally, I’d like to see this title held by someone who really represents the idea behind the title: “New Blood”, “Evolution”, “Valiantly”, “Eternal”, and “Radical”. Perhaps an idea that Makabe has the title and some of the young boys want to reclaim it for their own group, leading to a line of challengers?
7. I didn’t get an EX Hadoken out of Kenny Omega. That won’t ruin a great match though. Omega’s look as The Cleaner of Bullet Club and his commitment to the gimmick is solid. The fact that a “foreigner” such as Omega who has become a really important part of Japanese wrestling turned his back on the country that embraced him makes this all the better as a true, impactful heel turn. Omega picks up the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship and earned it in true heel fashion with outside interference and cold spray to the face of his opponent. Omega will be a strong champion, especially with Bullet Club backing him.
8. The Styles Clash is legitimately the most feared move in professional wrestling right now. Yes, people have been hurt by it and that’s truly unfortunate. They’ve managed to turn this into a great storyline. Not just verbally, not just in packages, but in matches. Naito goes for a top rope hurricanrana and Styles catches him. Now it would have been easy enough to have Styles land the middle rope Clash that he eventually did and call it a day, right? Instead, Naito while hung upside down, kicks and fights as hard as he can because he knows that if Styles hits this move it could not only beat him but end his career. The visual works, the commentary adds to it, noting the breaking of the neck of Yoshi Tatsu and makes for an awesome storyline. Styles is a smarmy heel and owns the fact that he’s breaking opponents’ necks. Excellent story telling.
9. The Intercontinental and IWGP World Heavyweight titles were defended in back to back potential Match of the Year candidates. I feel like we could spend pages gushing about these matches. Your time would be better spent watching these matches if you haven’t already and watching them again if you did the first time around. Seriously. My thought here is “GO WATCH” Okada, Tanahashi, Ibushi and Nakamura are four talents that you need to have eyes on if you consider yourself a wrestling fan.
10. The commentary? Excellent. Jim Ross and Matt Striker played their roles extremely well. Striker is the man with the knowledge and is eager to pass it on to everyone in ear shot. Good old JR seemed to be loving the task at had. Every strike from Ishii, a Boma Ye from Nakamura, High Fly Flow from the top rope to the floor? Ross kept composure where he should and exploded at just the right times so that there wasn’t ever a question of whether you had just seen something spectacular. Here’s hoping that moving forward, JR and/or Striker will be involved so that fans stateside can enjoy New Japan to its fullest.
Tags: AJ Styles, bullet club, hiroshi tanahashi, ishii, jeff jarrett, kazuchika okada, naito, new japan pro wrestling, njpw, redragon, shinsuke nakamura, Young Bucks