the Hot Tag

the official Blog of the Three Man Tag

All Hail The King of Sports!

This Wednesday I had finally given into that nagging voice in my head and shelled out the $8 for New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) World. Think, the WWE Network, just NJPW. I have never watched a NJPW show in its entirety, reserved only to any and every video on YouTube or Dailymotion I could find to see matches. I did not watch it live because it was just too damn early but I’m good at staying off social media when I need to and woke up and dove straight into the show. I was not ready for what was about to happen.

I was texting the other two members of the Three Man Tag throughout the show, and while I was at the peak of wrestling highs I get, “Hey, you should write about Wrestle Kingdom”.

Instant crash.

What the hell could I possibly say about this show? What angle do I take? I’m by no means an expert on NJPW. I do everything I can to stay as informed as possible but can’t go into the history of the promotion and give any historical context or explain the plotlines.

There is literally nothing I could say about the main event that has not already been said (Google, "Wrestling Kingdom 11" if you are interested). It has already officially won Match of the Year 2017, voting was closed on January 5th. It is currently in the running for Match of Eternity but the race is close with He-Man vs Skelator because Prince Adam has decreed all Eternians vote as much as possible. So I guess my review of that match is, “It’s good”.

Also this happened.

But one great match doesn’t make a 4 hour PPV -- looking at you Summerslam 2016.

Instead of focusing on match, moment, or storyline I want to take a step back and talk about “wrestling”. Specifically “wrestling shows”.

If you have ever listened to Jim Ross’ or Jim Cornette’s podcasts -- and if you’re reading this bottom of the barrel wrestling blog I assume you have -- you will have heard them talk many times about the pacing of a show. How one match leads into the next and how the show is not individual matches, but the ebb and flow of one big presentation. Often times in WWE that means opening a show with a fast paced match to “wake up the crowd”, then alternating between the longer more anticipated matches, and “cooler” matches. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach, and it has served WWE well enough. But this is not the format Wrestle Kingdom follows.

Whether this is not normal of NJPW I can’t say, but it stuck out to me on this particular show. The entire show was one build up to the main event. Everything was a stepping stone to what was being presented as the most important thing that has ever happened. And when we got to the final match, not only was it an all time great match, but we as an audience were not burned out from the 3 hours and 15 minutes prior, but were foaming at the mouth for this.

Just look at the results. (I am excluding the opening Rumble, but it fits perfectly within the card structure as it was a nothing match that only served to lead us into the show proper):

Tiger Mask W def. Tiger Dark (6:34)

Roppongi Vice def. The Young Bucks (12:57)

Los Ingobernables de Japon def. Bullet Club, Chaos, and Finlay Ricochet, and Kojima (16:06)

Cody def. Juice Robinson (9:37)

Adam Cole (Baybay) def Kyle O’Reilly (10:14)

Chaos def. G.O.D. and G.B.H (12:24)

Takahashi def. Kushida (16:15)

Goto def. Shibata (16:17)

Naito def. Tanahashi (25:25)

Okada def Omega (46:45)

Nearly every match runs slightly longer than the previous one. While there is a drop in time from the NEVER 6 Man Tag to the Cody vs Juice match that makes sense just from the logistics of the 6 man tag match being a gauntlet match. Everything from the ROH title match, through the main event, is designed to ratchet up the tension and string us along to the climax of the show. There are no “cooler” matches just a natural progression of matches we can subconsciously follow, just like how a movie doesn’t stop and say, “we are now in the 2nd act and our heroes are in danger”.

But it’s not just the run times that help build the show, but also that every title changed up the Intercontinental match. All night the announcers played up that Wrestle Kingdom only had a 40 something percent title change record. Then Chaos won the Jr. Heavyweight tag titles and then the next 5 title matches saw new champions. Title retentions become suspect, we don’t trust that 40 percent because this show, on this night, saw nothing but title changes. But they won’t possible change EVERY title. Then Naito retains the Intercontinental title. Game changer. Now the ending to the main event is literally unpredictable. Okada has had the title since June of last year. Is it time? Could Omega really pull this off? I honestly went into the main event with no idea who was going to win. With only the most passing of knowledge of NJPW, I was sucked in and understood the stakes.

Yes the main event can be enjoyed in a vacuum. It is amazing. But the entire show is an example of how a card itself can be a tool to help set the stakes and draw an audience in all to payoff one moment.


As I write this Kenny Omega has tweeted out the following:

He followed up saying:

Wow. Ok. NOOO!

I’m not going to speculate about the future of Kenny Omega. This could be sincere or he could be setting up something up. All I know is I love Kenny Omega and his stock has never been higher. If he is truly reassessing and seeking to cash in on the hard work he has put in, then all the power in the world to him. I just have some reservations if this means we might be seeing WWE’s version of Kenny Omega soon. I’m a huge fan and don’t think he HAS to be in WWE if it means any restrictions on his personality. Though if anyone can make things work against all the odds, I think it’s Kenny Omega.

us what you think!