AXS TV’s coverage of NJPW takes one step closer to THE Wrestling Dontaku event with the “Land of Fire”. Fittingly, two red hot feuds will burn up the ring with titles on the line! The IWGP Tag Team Champions defend against Killer Elite Squad, while THE Minoru Suzuki looks to teach Tetsuya Naito some respect.
This review of Wrestling Hi no Kuni 2018 will be as broadcast by AXS TV.
Therefore, all images are courtesy of AXS TV.
- IWGP Tag Team Championships: Los Ingobernables de Japon’s EVIL & SANADA VS Suzuki-Gun’s Killer Elite Squad; LIJ wins and retains the IWGP Tag Team Championships.
- IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Minoru Suzuki VS Tetsuya Naito; Naito wins and becomes the new IWGP Intercontinental Champion.
PLAY BY PLAY
AXS TV and NJPW review the build to tonight’s matches.
Two factions are the focus of two major feuds over two major titles in NJPW! The Man with the Worst Personality finds the Tranquilo Testuya Naito as little more than a nuisance. Suzuki treats the Intercontinental Championship belt far better than Naito did, will he beat Naito down to keep it from him? Meanwhile, Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. go after Sanada and the recovered EVIL for the IWGP Tag Team Championships, to finally give the world a rematch from Wrestle Kingdom. Will EVIL & Sanada stay Tranquilo? Or will KES prove that #EverybodyDies?
IWGP Tag Team Championships: Los Ingobernables de Japon’s EVIL & SANADA VS Suzuki-Gun’s Killer Elite Squad!
We come into this heavyweight tag match part way, as Archer and Davey Boy bring EVIL up and around. They go for Magic Kiler, and hit it! Cover, TWO?! The fans cheer but Davey and Archer are both shocked and furious. They drag EVIL up again, and try for the Killer Bomb, but Sanada springboards and dropkicks for the save. Sanada runs into a tilt-o-whirl, then inverted crucifix lift, but Sanada slips out to put Archer in the dragon sleeper. Archer reverses so that he has the dragon sleeper, but as Archer lifts, Sanada slips out back into his. Davey headbutts Sanada to break the hold, then whips him to a corner. Sanada stops himself from going into exposed buckles, then moonsaults into grabbing Davey in the dragon sleeper!
Sanada feeds Davey to EVIL’s mule kick, then adds a kick while EVIL runs. EVIL runs Davey over with a clothesline, cover, TWO. Sanada dropkicks Archer away, and LIJ fires up with the fans. They lift Davey, and steal Magic Killer!
Cover, but Archer drags the ref out! Archer boots Sanada, but Evil kicks Archer, only to run into the spinning side slam. Red Shoes is slowly recovering, but Archer uses this time to fetch a chair from under the ring. Archer brings it in the ring, wedges it in the bare-buckle corner, then goes to EVIL. He brings EVIL up but Sanada rushes over. Archer goes to double choke slam but they both elbow out. Archer runs but LIJ send him into the chair!
LIJ drag Davey up and they have more chairs now. EVIL puts a chair on Davey’s neck, and uses the other chair to SMACK it! Davey flounders as he gasps, but EVIL lifts him, for the Darkness Falls! Cover and Red Shoes returns to count, TWO! Sanada returns, and he slingshots to take Archer out. EVIL grabs Davey, STO! Cover, LIJ wins!
Winners: Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA), EVIL pinning; still IWGP Tag Team Champions
The champions retain in what was clearly a brutal contest. Their championship reign continues, what will it take to dethrone the Cold Skull and Prince of Darkness?
IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Minoru Suzuki VS Tetsuya Naito!
The leader of Suzuki-Gun defends his title against the leader of Los Ingobernables de Japon. While he was champion, Naito did all he could to disrespect the belt itself, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to be champion. Will he be able to stay Tranquilo while going up against The Man with the Worst Personality in the World?
Red Shoes shows Naito the belt while Naito removes his unnecessary clothing. This undressing in itself annoys Suzuki. Naito finishes, and the bell rings. Fans chant for Naito as he casually walks to test his knees. Naito and Suzuki circle, approach, but then Naito backs off. He circles with Suzuki again, and Suzuki swings test kicks. Naito fakes lunging in, and backs off with a grin. Suzuki goes after Naito with kicks, then whips, but Naito reverses. Naito throws Suzuki out, then runs, to Tranquilo! Suzuki is pissed, and gets in the ring, but Naito slips out. Suzuki builds speed, to copy Tranquilo! Naito brushes the taunting off, but doesn’t enter the ring just yet. He paces around the outside, with Suzuki watching him the entire time. Naito rolls into the ring, to then roll back out.
Naito gets on the apron and Suzuki rushes over, but Naito sweeps the legs. He drags Suzuki out and whips him right into barriers. Naito whips Suzuki to the barriers on the other side, then kicks and clubs away on him. They go back in the ring, and Naito brings Suzuki up for the snapmare and headscissors. Suzuki endures as Naito wrenches his neck. Naito squeezes, but Suzuki keeps it from being a cover. Suzuki won’t quit so Naito covers, TWO. Naito stomps and kicks Suzuki, then toys with him. Naito fakes a punch to then club, but Suzuki just gets mad. He toys with Suzuki more, but Suzuki boots him down. Suzuki dares Naito to get back up as he goes to the ropes. Naito chooses not to, so Suzuki returns the toying kicks.
Naito sits up with every kick, a smile on his face. Suzuki drags Naito up, and Naito goes after the eyes! Naito spits on Suzuki, then throws hands. Suzuki eggs Naito on, so Naito whips him corner to corner. Naito runs in but Suzuki puts him on the apron. Suzuki blocks Naito’s punch and catches it into a hanging triangle! Red Shoes counts, and Suzuki lets go at 4. Suzuki then goes to the apron, and Penalty Kicks Naito down. Fans applaud while Suzuki goes down to drag Naito up, and whip him into barriers! Naito hits hard, and tumbles over to the outside. Suzuki barges through the gate and then rips apart the hard plastic railings to SMACK Naito with it!
Then Suzuki throws a chair down on Naito! Then another! Suzuki apparently takes offense at one of the young lions, and boots said young lion into the crowd! Red Shoes tells Suzuki to bring this back to the ring. Suzuki uncovers Naito, to then wrap and wrench his arm in other railings. Red Shoes reprimands Suzuki, then argues with him! Suzuki releases Naito while we go to break.
NJPW on AXS returns to Suzuki prowling outside the ring. Suzuki drags Naito up and over to the ring, but Naito fights back. The 20 count passes 15, but Suzuki knees Naito low to reenter the ring. Naito reenters at 19, saving the match. Suzuki drags Naito up for a kick to the back, then scowls at the fans cheering for Naito. He kicks Naito in the chest, but fans only cheer stronger. Suzuki kicks and kicks, and kicks again. He scowls but Naito still sits up. Suzuki drags Naito up into a cravat hold, then snapmares for another kick tot he back. Cover, TWO, and fans applaud. Suzuki goes after an arm now, twisting the wrist and fingers in all directions, then down to the elbow for a mounted hammerlock. Suzuki grabs a leg to add a Half Crab into it.
Naito is bent in all directions, but doesn’t give up, so Suzuki lets him go to stomp him out. Suzuki toys with Naito, but Naito keeps grinning. Suzuki brings Naito up for a knee to the chin, but Naito keeps smiling. Naito takes another stiff knee, but sits up again. Suzuki actually welcomes that. Naito stands up and chops Suzuki, but Suzuki kicks back. Naito rakes the eyes, and spits, but Suzuki clubs him back. Suzuki knees then whips but Naito reverses and runs Suzuki over. Naito adds a dropkick, brings Suzuki up for a neckbreaker, then poses. Fans rally for “Naito! Naito!” as he brings Suzuki up. He whips Suzuki to a corner then sets the legs sideways, for a draping neckbreaker! Naito keeps going with a standing neckbreaker, then adds another dropkick to the back.
Suzuki clutches his neck and head while Naito stands. Naito digs his heel into Suzuki as he poses. Suzuki swats him away and sits up, eyes wild with anger. Suzuki stands up, and grins with Naito, to then unleash body shots. He whips Naito corner to corner and boots him, then snapmares to Penalty Kick. And another! And another! Cover, TWO, but Suzuki keeps his focus. Now Suzuki grinds his heel into Naito’s face, then stands him up. Naito suddenly hits a tornado DDT! Suzuki clutches his neck again, but both men are down. They slowly stand up, and Suzuki dares Naito to hit him. Naito does, so Suzuki gives back. Naito gives a forearm, so Suzuki winds up for one of his own. Suzuki staggers Naito with that one, but Naito comes back with a chop.
Suzuki gives another strong forearm, and Naito staggers again. Naito chops again, but Suzuki gives another sharp forearm. Suzuki wants Naito to keep hitting him, so Naito chops again. Suzuki rocks Naito with another forearm, and Naito sits down. Naito shakes the cobwebs out while Suzuki trash talks. Naito chops, Suzuki forearms. Suzuki gives more forearms, then whips, but Naito hits a leaping forearm! Naito stands up, runs in, but Suzuki blocks the kick to go after the knee. Suzuki runs but into an atomic drop, and Naito hits the kick. Suzuki sits down, and Naito hits the swinging dropkick!
Naito gets up and drags Suzuki to his feet. Suzuki knows Naito is bringing him to the top rope, so Suzuki grabs Red Shoes! Naito gives up on the lift, and Suzuki shoves Red Shoes away. Naito tries again, and climbs up to the top with Suzuki. Suzuki grabs Naito’s leg for a hanging heel hook!
Naito endures as Suzuki uses gravity to help pull that knee. Red Shoes recovers and counts, Suzuki lets go at 4, but the damage has been done. Naito clutches his knee while Red Shoes checks on him. Suzuki returns and stomps the knee. Red Shoes wants Suzuki to back up, but Suzuki argues with him again. Suzuki won’t let up, he stomps the knee even as Red Shoes checks. Suzuki stands on the bad knee, but Naito won’t give up. Fans rally for Naito, and Red Shoes backs Suzuki up. Naito rolls to ropes and Red Shoes checks on him, but Suzuki just grins as he looms over them. Suzuki kicks the bad leg, then stomps it, toying with Naito like a cat with a mouse. Naito sits up and Suzuki kicks him more.
Naito crawls but Suzuki moves Red Shoes aside to bring Naito up. Suzuki kicks and kicks, then wraps the leg into a kneebar! Naito endures, but Suzuki has it grape-vined. Suzuki even traps the far leg while twisting the heel. Naito screams in pain but Suzuki only makes it worse. Naito drags himself and Suzuki over, and gets the ropebreak! Suzuki lets go, but he comes right back. He kicks Naito’s leg, then drops elbows on it. Suzuki goes into the Figure Four! Naito endures the legendary hold, but fans rally for him. Suzuki puts as much pressure on the legs as he can, but Naito refuses to quit. Naito rolls and drags towards ropes, screaming in pain, and gets another ropebreak. Suzuki lets go again, but he has complete control as we go to break.
NJPW on AXS returns, and Suzuki throws Naito’s bad leg onto the mat. Suzuki toys with Naito again, but Naito slowly stands. Naito goes to kick, but Suzuki blocks and lifts him, only for Naito to turn it into a DDT! Suzuki and Naito stand, Naito enziguris Suzuki to a corner. Naito hobbles over, climbs up, and turns Suzuki around for the inverted tornado DDT. Cover, TWO! Fans fire up with Naito, and Naito drags Suzuki back up. Naito wrenches the arm, and tilt-o-whirls, but Suzuki slams him down and puts the Kneebar back on! Suzuki even manages a headlock in it!
Naito reaches with his one free limb, but Suzuki shifts back to just the kneebar. Naito drags them both around again, but Suzuki breaks to drag him away. Suzuki puts the kneebar back on, and now Naito is stranded. Naito sits up, but Suzuki uses a leg to sit him back down. Naito goes back towards ropes but Suzuki stands with an ankle lock to drag him away. Suzuki drops down to grape-vine, and we’re back to the kneebar. Red Shoes checks on Naito, but Naito keeps conscious. Suzuki laces his legs into a figure four, then goes after the heel hook. Fans rally for Naito as Naito sits up and shouts at Suzuki. Naito drags himself around again, but Suzuki lets go to drag him back! Suzuki returns to the kneebar all over again.
Naito won’t give up, even though Suzuki wrenches and twists his leg in all directions. Naito grabs Red Shoes to keep himself from tapping. Suzuki goes for the heel hook, but Naito uses that opening to roll and roll, to the ropebreak! Suzuki lets go again, and fans continue to rally for Naito. Naito slowly stirs, but Suzuki is waiting for him to stand. Suzuki drags Naito up and gives body shots and quick palm strikes even. Then he grabs Naito in a sleeper hold! Naito flails and reaches, but Suzuki keeps him away. Red Shoes checks, and Naito is fading. They sit down, but fans aren’t giving up on Naito. Naito turns a bit purple as Red Shoes checks on him more. Naito revives, and uses that second wind to stand. Suzuki spins him around, but Naito uses that spin to spin Suzuki into a neckbreaker!
Both men are down now, both tired and sore from this battle. Fans rally for Naito again, but Suzuki is stalking him with that sinister grin. Suzuki brings Naito up, but Naito strikes first with slapping palm strikes! Naito staggers Suzuki, but keeps slapping! Sweat flies off Suzuki with every shot, but then Suzuki kicks Naito’s leg out. Suzuki drags Naito up into the sleeper again, then goes to judo throw him. Naito lands on his feet, and lifts Suzuki into a brainbuster! Fans fire up and Naito hobbles over. He brings Suzuki up, wrench and tilt-o-whirl, Destino!
Cover, Naito wins!!
Winner: Naito, by pinfall; NEW IWGP Intercontinental Champion
Tranquilo prevails as Naito defeats Suzuki! Naito has the title back, but his body went through so much to do it. Naito’s team comes out to celebrate the night with him. LIJ now has two titles under their possession with EVIL & SANADA retaining their titles. Suzuki is helped out of the ring while we go to break.
Red Shoes raises Naito’s hand.
The new champion is clearly too exhausted and sore to celebrate properly. Suzuki himself is too sore and tired to go past ringside. Hiromu Takahashi helps Naito, and Naito has a proper moment of his hand held up high. Suzuki staggers up to his feet and shoves the young lions away. He doesn’t want their help, even if he’s falling against railings and such. Back in the ring, Naito staggers to his feet, mic in his hand.
“Buenas Noches, Kumamoto!” Naito knows “it’s been about two years and five months since New Japan had an event in Kumamoto.” It’s been a long time since fans here saw LIJ. This premium pro-wrestling experincing was enjoyable, yes? Fans cheer to confirm. Naito knows that two years ago, “something terrible happened here in Kumamoto.” Many people bear the scars. So Naito has to tell them, that it is important to not give up. But the desire and will to change and the courage to take the first step is also important. that’s why LIJ uses pro-wrestling to inspire everyone to have that courage. Fans applaud in appreciation for that.
Naito continues to say that the next time they’re in Kumamoto, they can expect “an even better version of LIJ!” In other words, “until we meet again, Tranquilo! Chill out.” Naito thanks all their fans for their support, and this is the finale of tonight’s event. Furthermore, they will do their victory chant. Please shout with them to your heart’s content! “EVIL, Bushi, Sanada, Hiromu, and Naito, we are… Los Ingobernables de Japon!” With more gold in their possession, is it only a matter of time before they are THE top faction in NJPW?
Suzuki staggers around, and a young lion still tries to assist him. “Well, well, well…” Suzuki says this is only the beginning for him and Naito. “Don’t think you’ll get off so lightly.” He then staggers back out, knocking part of the set over on purpose.
Naito comments that today’s title match comes about a year after he and the Intercontinental Championship “broke up.” But now, they’re “back together.” Naito’s feelings haven’t changed, he still has “no use for this belt.” And the same goes for the title. But until next time, hasta luego. Is Naito only champion so that he can say he’s better than Suzuki? And will Suzuki come back to take back the belt Naito doesn’t even like?
This was another great hour of action, with really only one-and-a-half matches. I do wish we got a bit more of LIJ VS KES, but the ending is naturally the best part. EVIL & SANADA make a great duo, as do Archer & Davey Boy, but LIJ is so strong that it might take more than just 2v2 to defeat them. Hiromu & Bushi have been on the other end of this same LIJ VS Suzuki-Gun battle, but it might only be a matter of time for them to take the Jr. Tag Team Championships. Suzuki VS Naito is rightfully the meat of the show, though, and the story between them was a great part of it. Naito was rebellious as ever, but he shows he has grit and guts. Naito leading LIJ has made it one, if not the, top group, and I’m sure more great things are yet to come.
My Score: 8.7/10
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