70. Cody Rhodes vs Kota Ibushi (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12)

After watching Kota Ibushi vs Cody Rhodes at NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 2018, I was left disappointed. However, that was a rematch from their first singles bout together at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12. Thankfully, their first bout is much better. Leaner, better paced and just more entertaining all-round, it proved that their rematch was just an aberration.

Cody Rhodes’ wife, Brandi Rhodes, plays a key part in the match. She distracts Ibushi, the referee, and does everything in her power to make sure her man wins. A big part of the match, her force of personality causes the viewer to support Ibushi (even more, as the crowd are heavily behind him anyway). And, perhaps, her presence at ringside pushed Cody to perform at a higher level?

Lile I mentioned, something didn’t click in their rematch. Maybe one of them had an injury, or just an off night. Whatever the reason, it dragged on without any real rhyme or reason. This bout is shorter, with a focused story involving Brandi interfering and Cody targeting Ibushi’s neck (the latter, I understand, is a key part of many Ibushi matches, as I witnessed in his WWE Cruiserweight Classic matches). And the final stretch of the match sees big spots and dramatic near-falls, agaon something their rematch lacks.

So, the obvious choice between the two singles matches is this one. It has a more engaging structure, a more enthralling story, and a rivetting closing five minutes. The shorter duration doesn’t allow the action to drag at any point, and the slow start builds and builds. Not at a level of greatness, but still a very good bout!

Hammy’s Rating: **** (out of 5)

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

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