69. Cody Rhodes vs Kota Ibushi (NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 2018)

Did you know that Cody Rhodes has fought in NJPW? You probably did, but I didn’t! So, after seeing his already legendary performance at WWE Hell in a Cell 2022, I searched his name in NJPW World (search just ‘Cody’ by the way, not ‘Cody Rhodes.’ Nothing comes up for Cody Rhodes). I was greeted with a plethora of matches, and more than a few caught my eye. But there was one I could not resist: Cody Rhodes vs Kota Ibushi frim NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 2018. Unfortunately, I was left a little disappointed.

The WWE Cruiserweight Classic was one of the best things WWE produced this century.  A whole variety of different wrestling styles, a whole roster of new and familiar faces, and a horde of 5* matches. From Ciampa vs Gargano (a personal favourite of mine), to the redemption of The Brian Kendrick (that fell apart this year), to HHH giving Cedric Alexander a standing ovation, to blinding match after blind match, it was phenomenal. But seeing Kota Ibushi in action was something else. He just has ‘it,’ doesn’t he? That indefinable aura about him, the way he carries himself, the effortless style of slick wrestling…I was rooting for him to win it.

Spoilers: he didn’t. But he’s one of the wrestlers I wanted to see more, and five years later with NJPW World I have that chance! And against Cody Rhodes? I couldn’t resist.

But, for some reason, this match doesn’t get going. Cody plays the sly foreign heel, Ibushi the heroic national babyface, and they tell that story very well. I don’t know much about their history, but it seems thay Cosy had found himself as a character, two years away from leaving WWE and coming into his own. But as a wrestler…perhaps he still needed to hone that particular part.

But Ibushi isn’t firing on all cylinders, either. He seems sluggish, nowhere near the heights of his performance in the Cruiserweight Classic. He busts out his trademark moves, as does Cody, hitting all the right notes…but still missing the tune.

Of course, it’s still watchable, interesting to see Cody acclimatise to a different style of wrestling. And to see his character progressing after he left WWE. But both wrestlers left me wanting more, and not in a positive way. But I heard this was a rematch, so perhaps their first match is better? I will have to check that out.

Hammy’s Rating: *** (out of 5)

(Click here for more of ‘A Wrestling Match A Day‘)

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