Bang for Your Buck PPV Review: Wrestle Kingdom 9

UWF Rules match

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Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Minoru Suzuki

This was the point in the night where things kicked up a notch, with the penchant that NJPW has for incorporating as many different spectacles from as many corners of the interconnected universe of puroresu and MMA as they can fit on their archipelago starting to shine through after the previous two attempts to integrate these disparate elements came up at least a little dim (in the eyes of your correspondent, at least).

These two men, who were described by Striker and JR as “number one and number two on the list of MMA Hall of Fame inductees”, beat the snot out of each other throughout the arena, given fans the visceral feeling of a FMW match without any of the barbed wire explosion/death matches. While an entire show couldn’t likely be filled with this type of match, it marked perhaps the clearest delineation between the WWE and their Japanese counterpart: the goal of the former is to tell stories within a believable context, while the latter’s goal is to be believable, full stop.

There are obvious advantages and disadvantages to both styles, but when performed correctly, the latter ideal will produce a kind of magic that the former can find only strive for. And while there were better matches — this was, by your correspondent’s measure, the fourth best match on a remarkably stacked card — this was definitely the most palpably different performance from what the WWE has to offer of the entire night.

But, even if it wasn’t, it told an engaging story simply through the actions of the competitors: brutal, yet graceful in its own way, it opens the doors (and the mind) to the possibilities of human physicality (and the mimicry of it) in a way that few other matches you will see are capable of. These men both pretended to and actually beat the snot out of each other in a way that compelling and, at the end, when the two men embraced, emotionally uplifting. The crazy shit they didn’t on the entrance ramp didn’t hurt either.

Match .85 | PPV 2.35