Wrestle Kingdom 8
Wrestle Kingdom 8 in Tokyo Dome was a professional wrestling pay-per-view (PPV) event produced by the New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) promotion, which took place at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan on January 4, 2014. It was the 23rd January 4 Tokyo Dome Show and the eighth held under the "Wrestle Kingdom" name. Like the previous year, the event aired worldwide on internet pay-per-view (iPPV). Wrestle Kingdom is traditionally NJPW's biggest event of the year and has been described as their equivalent to WWE's WrestleMania.
|Wrestle Kingdom 8|
Promotional poster for the event, featuring caricatures of various NJPW wrestlers
|Promotion||New Japan Pro-Wrestling|
|Date||January 4, 2014|
|Wrestle Kingdom chronology|
The event featured ten matches, six of which were contested for championships. For the first time in twenty years, the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) World Heavyweight Championship was defended during the event with NWA representative Rob Conway defending against Satoshi Kojima. The event was headlined by a double main event; Shinsuke Nakamura defending the IWGP Intercontinental Championship against Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada defending the IWGP Heavyweight Championship against the winner of the 2013 G1 Climax, Tetsuya Naito. A fan vote decided the order in which the two matches took place during the event; the Heavyweight Championship match went first and the Intercontinental Championship match was the final match of the event. The event also featured outside participation from Wrestle-1 representative Keiji Mutoh, who worked under his Great Muta character. The event also featured appearances by Harley Race, Marty Friedman and Stan Hansen.
Wrestle Kingdom 8 featured eleven professional wrestling matches that involved different wrestlers from pre-existing scripted feuds and storylines. Wrestlers portrayed villains, heroes, or less distinguishable characters in the scripted events that built tension and culminated in a wrestling match or series of matches.
On August 11, 2013, Tetsuya Naito defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi in the finals to win the 2013 G1 Climax. The following day, Naito was given a contract granting him a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 8. Despite being a clean cut babyface, Naito was thoroughly disliked by NJPW fans, which led to NJPW changing their course of action, announcing a fan vote to decide whether the match between him and Okada or an IWGP Intercontinental Championship match between Shinsuke Nakamura and Hiroshi Tanahashi would main event Wrestle Kingdom 8. Nakamura and Tanahashi won the vote with Naito and Okada being demoted to the semi-main event.
The event was also set to feature Hirooki Goto's return match against Katsuyori Shibata. Goto had broken his jaw during the previous summer's G1 Climax tournament and made a surprise appearance on December 8 to request Shibata as his opponent in his return match at Wrestle Kingdom 8. The two former high school classmates had faced off three times since May 2013 with two matches ending in draws and Shibata winning once. They were scheduled to wrestle again during the G1 Climax, but Goto had to pull out of the tournament with his injury just prior to the match taking place.
On October 14, 2013, mixed martial artists Daniel Gracie and Rolles Gracie appeared at King of Pro-Wrestling, announcing they would take part in Wrestle Kingdom 8. Later in the event, Kazushi Sakuraba and Yuji Nagata, after their match against each other, accepted the Gracies' challenge for a tag team match at Wrestle Kingdom 8. Sakuraba had previously created a name for himself on the mixed martial arts scene as the "Gracie Hunter".
Wrestle Kingdom 8 was headlined by a "double main event", featuring Kazuchika Okada defending the IWGP Heavyweight Championship against Tetsuya Naito and Shinsuke Nakamura defending the IWGP Intercontinental Championship against Hiroshi Tanahashi. In the first of the main events, Okada made his seventh successful defense of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship against Naito, while the second main event saw Tanahashi defeat Nakamura to become the new IWGP Intercontinental Champion.
The event also saw Kota Ibushi defeat Prince Devitt to become the new IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. Devitt wrestled the match covered in face and bodypaint, debuting what would later become his signature big match look and part of his "Demon" persona. After the match, Ibushi was approached by an unknown masked man, later identified as El Desperado, who handed him a bouquet of roses. In his return match, Hirooki Goto defeated Katsuyori Shibata, who afterwards helped him backstage.
Other title matches included Satoshi Kojima defeat National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) representative Rob Conway to capture the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in a match that featured an appearance by Harley Race. This marked the first time the NWA title had changed hands in Japan since March 2002. Bullet Club's Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson, the winners of the 2013 World Tag League, defeated the Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Lance Archer) with help from their stablemate Tama Tonga to become the new IWGP Tag Team Champions, while The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) successfully defended the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship in a four-way match.
Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter wrote that "by most normal standards, the show was very good", but felt that it did not match the previous year's show, which he called "among the greatest wrestling events of all-time". He praised the final four matches, giving both of the main events four and a quarter stars out of five, while calling the first half "not good" and the tag team match involving the Gracies "kind of an atrocity". In his review of the show, James Caldwell of Pro Wrestling Torch wrote that "[t]he big matches delivered, the undercard was hit-or-miss, and the event production was top-notch".
Tetsuya Naito used the snub he suffered at Wrestle Kingdom 8 to turn heel and form the Los Ingobernables de Japon stable. When he finally won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship from Okada in April 2016 at Invasion Attack, Naito had managed to turn his career around and was now fully embraced by the NJPW fans. There was another rematch between the two at Wrestle Kingdom 12 on January 4, 2018, with the same result as Okada retained against Naito.
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- NJPW.co.jp (in Japanese)