The first major wrestling event of 2018 took place this past week in Japan. It goes without saying that Wrestle Kingdom 12 was an excellent show from top to bottom. Now, I could put together an in-depth wrap up breaking down all the matches into a fine powder. That is not what you are going to get here. It’s just not my style. If you want that you can listen to a hundred different podcasts, read the Wrestling Observer, or even Bleacher Report. Here at HSLB we like to have a little fun. So I put together a list of superlatives(like your high school yearbook!) highlighting the best parts of this fantastic NJPW show. Enjoy!
BEST DRESSED-Tetsuya Naito: Let us begin where the show ended. Before putting on an epic main event with rival Kazuchika Okada, Naito made an equally impressive entrance into the Tokyo Dome. He was draped in a white suit, fully equipped with a cape and mask. I can only assume he was going for the Don Fanucci look from “Godfather Part II.”
None of this, however, can take away from the incredible match Naito and Okada put on. They have one of the best rivalries in all of wrestling. It was a perfect ending to a near perfect show.
BEST COUPLE-Cody and Brandy Rhodes: Ugh I know this is so obvious, but we must give credit where credit is due. There are very few active on/off screen power couples in wrestling. The Miz has been off filming a movie while wife Maryse is on maternity leave. The Bella Twins have their own show, and haven’t been a regular part of WWE television in quite some time. Even Triple H and Stephanie McMahon do most of their work behind the scenes rather than in the ring. This has left the door open for Cody and Brandy to take the reigns at the top of the mountain. Cody’s career is red hot since he left WWE, despite back to back big match losses. The on screen addition of his real life bride has added a much needed wrinkle to his all world personality. I am excited to see where these two go from here.
MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED- “Switchblade” Jay White: Full disclosure: I had never seen a Jay White match before I watched WK12. Does that make me a bad wrestling fan? Maybe, but I have a wife and a 1 year old. I can’t see everything! Needless to say I was impressed with this young man from the start. I said it on Twitter, and I will say it again here: If I were a WWE talent scout, I would call Jay White everyday until he showed up at the Performance Center. He has all of the tools to be a megastar. He has a great look. He is a physical presence in the ring, and at 25, even the sky may not be the limit. I mean look at him? He looks like the love child of Wade Barrett and Trent Reznor!
And you could have it all…….
The amount of young talent out there is astounding. We live in a wrestling world of big spots and extraterrestrial athleticism. Jay White is breath of fresh air for fans like me who love a good brawler. I am excited to see what the future holds for this kid from New Zealand. Speaking of leaping aliens…..
MOST ATHLETIC: Will Ospreay- Another obvious one, but this dude does some nonsense in the ring that can’t be understood by our earth born brains. He is a human video game glitch. Not a single thing he does should be physically possible. The man literally walks on air. I do have a few concerns about his future. At only 24, the risks he takes in the ring may end up costing him down the line. Ospreay’s unlimited agility will get him a seat at the table without a doubt. I just think he needs to slow down, and find the wrestler in him. It is there, we all know it, and it will add years to his career. I am also not a fan of his finisher. Ospreay hit it a few times during his IWGP Jr. Heavyweight title win at WK12. Honestly, it is an impressive maneuver on his part, but he will always be in the ring with guys that are not quite as gifted athletically. When his opponent clearly needs to jump into the Oscutter, it looks mildly shitty. Obviously I am just nitpicking here, but details matter. I want this guy to get to the next level just like everyone. I wish him nothing but the best.
MOST TALKATIVE: Kevin Kelly and Don Callis- One of the things that made this show so good was the English commentary by Kevin Kelly and Don Callis. Callis, in particular, was most entertaining as your typical “heel” half of the announce team. It was nice having the announcers actually calling the matches, rather than being fed lines and plugs in their headsets. They also did a fantastic job of telling the stories within the matches. The team knew they were probably speaking to a good chunk of fans that may not know the ins and outs of all things NJPW. They were able to paint the necessary picture to get the casual fan invested in every single match. Kudos to Kelly and Callis for providing depth to the already impressive in ring performances.
MOST DEPENDABLE: Chris Jericho(and fine Kenny Omega, too)- The match that had everyone’s attention going into WK12 was a battle between a legend and a guy building his own legacy. The hype for this match was out of control, and boy did it deliver. I was not surprised at all. Even with the high expectations, you knew that these 2 men were going to live up to every bit of it. Kenny Omega is one of the best wrestlers in world, enjoying the best parts of his prime. The real story here is Chris Jericho. At 47, his ability to still put on main event caliber matches is unparalleled. His match with Omega will go down, and rightfully so, as one of the best of his career. Personally, my favorite Jericho match ever was against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 19. The top 2 guys on my list, facing each other on the biggest stage. To put it in perspective, Jericho was 33 at the time of that match, Michaels was 38. 14 years later, Y2J has yet to lose a step.
I hope you enjoyed this feature on Wrestle Kingdom 12. Chris and I will be back on the air in the coming weeks. Until then enjoy all of our archived shows on the website!