The man, the monster, the machine, the (ex) reigning, defending, undisputed WWE Heavyweight Champion of the World descended upon Tokyo’s Ryougoku Sumo Hall on this sunny Saturday morning, in perfect timing for us UK fans, and he was in scintillating form. Yet, before we could see The Beast, or face the Demon, we were treated to…
1. Neville vs. Chris Jericho
Oh, how good was it to see Y2J back in the ring. He may look more like Axl Rose than Adam Rose these days, but he hasn’t lost an in ring beat (and I’m sure he’ll much rather the comparison to the former). Both athletes showed off their impressive technical proficiency, as well as their high-flying capabilities, as momentum swung like a pendulum. The near-twenty minute bout was main event quality for practically any PPV, with ever-popular Jericho’s Lionsault and Walls of Jericho attaining huge pops. Whilst many will feel aggrieved that Neville lost the match, to a Liontamer, the match was a sublime start to the event, and showed that both men have/still have the talent to main event in the future.
2. Paige vs. Tamina vs. Nikki Bella (for the Divas Title)
With the belt on the line, it never really seemed that Nikki’s 200+ day reign would be broken. However, this didn’t prevent the match from being some of the finest Divas action that the main roster has produced since WrestleMania. After some initial clumsiness, the match fell into a nice rhythm of one on one contests with the third competitor flying in, making another flew out. Tamina bullied into control before the two smaller divas worked together, albeit briefly, to chop down the sizable Snuka. With Paige out of the ring, Tamina looked to hit her father’s signatiure Superfly Spash on a prone Nikki, but failed. Nikki sprung up and hit Tamina with a routine forearm, which surprisingly was enough for the three count. In a world where it takes multiple finishers to win a PPV match, a standard hit to the face was an odd ending to the bout, but not one that ruined the total satisfactory package.
3. Brock Lesnar vs. Kofi Kingston
And then it was time. Kingston strode alone to the ring, looking predictably shaken. Lesnar’s entrance got a huge reaction from an expectant crowd. Even without Heyman by his side, Lesnar was enthralling. The man looks (and is) legitimately terrifying. Kingston’s offense was quick and limited as Brock no-sold his kicks and jabs. As Kofi went for the Trouble in Paradise, for lack of other idea, Brock caught the former Intercontinental Champion, hitting him with a German Suplex that looked to have literally snapped him in half.
An F5 quickly finished the match, but Lesnar wasn’t finished there. A second F5 on a decimated Kingston was enough to keep the Ghanaian motionless and prompted Woods and Big E’s appearance. Neither member got in a hit on the Beast before he treated them both to the same fate as Kofi. 4 F5’s were enough to satisfy the captivated audience’s appetite, as Lesnar departed without really breaking a sweat. Don’t feel bad for Kofi; despite being duly squashed, having a match with such a high-profile star on such a high-profile event is a huge feather in his blossoming cap.
4. Finn Balor vs. Kevin Owens (for the NXT Championship)
WWE must really hate the Divas, as before this match the competitors were handed traditional, customary championship flowers. No such expense was spared for the ladies. However, none of the female competitors had an entrance half as good as Mr. Balor’s. Looking like something to have crawled straight out of the Black Lagoon, Finn Balor’s Demon made for another special entrance. It gets better with each incarnation. After his entrance and the flower-giving, the Japanese fans flooded the ring with streamers in a scene almost as impressive as Balor’s bodywork. Even before the match had begun, this contest had stolen the spotlight.
The match was exactly what it needed to be. With Cole and Saxton calling the action perfectly, the back and forth action kept the audience on their toes, as much as it kept us watching on the Network guessing. Though all the promotion pointed to a new champion being crowned, Owens was his usual ruthless self, dominating his slighter rival for long periods. After hitting the ropes, and looking like a crowd-pleasing move was imminent, Owens stopped dead before a seated Balor and applied a chin-lock. His offense was truly masterful heel work. Paying disrespect to John Cena, and Finn Balor, by using Cena’s ‘Moves of Doom’, Owens was brash, bullish and oh so confident, even after Balor had hit a coup de grâce. However, a spirited and shining Balor held off Owens’ late offense and pinned the champ after a second coup de grâce. Balor also looked like a top star, and Owens was given all the more motivation to kick Cena’s ass at Battleground. Though probably not as good as Cena vs Owens, Balor vs. Owens was a real treat, cementing both men’s futures at the top of WWE.
5. King Barrett and Kane vs. John Cena and Dolph Ziggler
And then it was back to the old live event routine of horrendously random tag team action. This tag team bout was simply included to have the surprisingly popular Kane on screen and give the people’s favourite, Mr. Fruity Oebbles himself, a winning end to the evening. The heels battered the babyfaces for long swaithes of the match, with Cena and Ziggy only mounting offense before a tag was made. This lengthy match gave both Kane and the King opportunity to show that they can both tell a good story inside the ring (when given more than 8 seconds to do so.)
Ziggy and John eventually won thanks to an entertaining culmination (and another AA) but this was not their night. Any quality the match had simply paled in comparison to The Beast, The Demon and even The Immortal Y2J.
This was a “can’t miss, must-see” quality event; one that makes you wonder how on earth Raw and Smackdown can be so gosh darn boring.