Mistico, Ryusuke Taguchi, & Prince Devitt vs Averno, Gedo, & Jado - 6.5/10
Babyfaces all came out to their different songs. This was all a showcase for the faces, Mistico and Devitt the most over of the six. Heels had the heat on Devitt for a while, followed by a hot tag by Mistico where he flew around everywhere, Taguchi and Devitt focused on Gado and Jedo, leaving Mistico and Averno to do their thing. At one point Devitt hit a tope con hilo over the guardrail that look painful to land. Finish saw Mistico lock in La Mistica on Averno to a nice pop from the crowd. Good opener.
Jushin 'Thunder' Liger & Takuma Sano vs Koji Kanemoto & Wataru Inoue - 6.5/10
The bad guys jump Liger right from the start, take out Sano, and focus on Liger, who a minute later did a comeback, tagged in Sano, who became babyface in peril, hot tag by Liger, tornado wrestling, and win. This was a full tag match formula executed in 8 minutes. Sano was kinda bad, but the rest were great, Kanemoto and Inoue specially. Kanemoto vs Liger parts were great. They all embrace after the match.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match
Motor City Machine Guns vs NO LIMIT (C) - 7/10
All the double team moves you'll ever need were in this match. I can't really say that the MCMGs were heels, but surely they were gaijin, so they got the heat on Naito for a while, then the hot tag really just transitioned to Yujiro vs Shelley, and later just they started fighting all at the same time. Good match, finish was ok. Shelley really took a beating here, busted nose in the first minutes and dropped on his head at least once. Fans weren't happy about the title change.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match
Tiger Mask vs Low Ki (C) - 5/10
Tiger Mask wearing the White Bengala attire tonight. Nothing against Mask, but this was mostly Low Ki working circles around him not only looking like a vicious heel, but making Tiger look great as a babyface that won't give up. Match did have some good nearfalls, one of which was Low Ki hitting a top rope foot stomp and he stood on top of mask for a whole second. Finish itself was really lackluster, Low Ki wasn't even that injured at that point.
LEGEND & Main Event Mafia vs Great Bash Heel - 5/10
MEM is Angle and Nash, Legend is Chono and Riki Choshu; on the other side, GBH is represented by Bernard, Anderson, Ishii, and Iizuka. Leave it to NJPW to make me excited about a Giant Bernard vs Kevin Nash fight, not to mention the hopes of Ishii or Anderson vs Kurt Angle. All guys got a chance to get their stuff in at first, Riki Choshu, being the oldest guy, was the babyface in peril, which is impressive in itself. There wasn't much of a hot tag, all the babyfaces just ran in and took out the heels, Angle locking in the Ankle Lock on Anderson for the win.
Post-match - Giant Bernard took out Kurt Angle before being ran out by the rest of the faces.
ZERO1 Max World Championship Match
Yuji Nagata (C) vs Masato Tanaka - 8.5/10
Somewhere in the back, a young Ishii is watching this match and really liking what he sees. Nagata busted himself open the hard way in the first minutes of the match with unprotected chair shots and ramming his head to the ring post. Minutes later Tanaka juiced too. These guys were beating the living shit out of each other nonstop, it was all just dropping each other and forearms and kicks. The ending sequence was awesome, starting with a bunch of nearfalls from Nagata and Tanaka not giving up. Nagata was out here trying to kill a man. This is totally worth checking out for strong style fans.
Jun Akiyama vs Manabu Nakanishi - 6.5/10
This was supposed to be speed vs power, but then Nakanishi started doing planchas to the outside and from the top rope, so already my expectations are off. Both men went for several submissions throughout the match, with Nakanishi usually overpowering himself out of the guillotines. Tons of stiff chops and slaps. Akiyama really made Nakanishi look unstoppable, even with Nakanishi botching some moves. At the end it really took a lot to put Nakanishi down, but Akiyama pulled it off. This was surprisingly a lot better than I expected.
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championships Match
Team 3D vs Most Violent Players (C) - 6.5/10
Team 3D look huge here, they make Makabe seem like a normal size man. MVPs got the heat on Devon for a while, he got busted open. There were some weapon shots right in-front of the ref, so considering the players, I take it this was some kind of weapons match. Wrestling was super sloppy, but all the power moves and weapons did get some pops. Midway through the match, Ray and Makabe got put through some benches, because I'll be damned if I call those things tables, I did find it surprising that they do the bench spots mid-match and not as part of the finish, which ended up being a normal 3-D.
Post-match - Ray thanked the crowd and shat on MVP in Japanese. Fans appreciated it.
RISE vs Mitsuharu Misawa & Takashi Sugiura - 9/10
I just got chills watching Misawa walk down the ramp of a WK show. RISE is represented by Nakamura and Goto tonight. Order of entrances were Sugiura, Goto, Misawa, and finally, Nakamura, which I found a bit odd to not pair them up.
Match started with Goto and Sugiura going at it pretty strong, Goto at one point took a nasty self-bump on the apron. Then Misawa and Nakamura were tagged in, and the crowd went ape-shit. Misawa and Nak went at it for a while, mostly sizing each other, but at the end Misawa had the upper hand. Some tags later between the NOAH guys, Nakamura hit a really stiff looking kick on Misawa and tagged in Goto, who ran wild for a while too. After that all hell broke lose. There was a really awesome submission spot, where Sugiura locked in the Ankle Lock on Nakamura, who wouldn't tap out, but then Sugiura dropped to his back for the extra weight, and in the back, you could see Goto struggling with getting away from Misawa to break the submission, but Misawa wouldn't let go either, awesome suspense; made even more awesome because this was the finish, but with Nakamura locking in the armbar on Sugiura for the submission win.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match
Keiji Mutoh (C) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi - 9.5/10
Mutoh coming in to this match looks and feels like a boss battle for Tanahashi who hasn't touched the title in over a year, but Mutoh is bigger, more experienced, and not willing to drop the title to the young up and coming Ace.
Match started with both men testing each other with some move-by-move mat wrestling, but Tanahashi finds an opening to hit a Dragon Screw and viciously start working Mutoh's leg. After a while of Tanahashi working the leg, Mutoh himself hits a Dragon Screw and starts destroying Tanahashi's leg, including a sick looking Screw from the apron to the floor and another Screw from one side of the guardrail to the other. At the end, I think Mutoh's attack being more vicious made Tanahashi come off as a bigger babyface for not giving up when Mutoh would lock in submissions on the leg, not failing to mention the several Shining Wizards throughout the match. At one point, Tanahashi did the old Kawada sell where he can't hold a German bridge for the clear pin.
Awesome selling by Tanahashi and a babyface fire like no equal, this match definitely lived up to the main event expectations of a January 4th show. There was a point where I felt the match should have ended, mainly before Mutoh botched that springboard spot, because after that I felt there was no a lot more build required, Mutoh getting the upper hand again felt like stalling and you could tell Mutoh was getting gassed out. Nevertheless, the finish was a perfect example of two men desperate to end a match.
This show had representation from TNA, CMLL, Pro Wrestling NOAH, Zero-1, AJPW, and obviously NJPW, with TNA being the one that got the most love if you think about it, at least in terms of taking titles home. There's a lot of appeal to this show because of the amount of cross-promotional matches all over the card, fans of Lucha, american wrestling, old puro, or new puro, can find at least one match to look forward to. Granted not all wrestling was out of this world, but overall the show delivered, especially with the last 2 matches.