January 4th, 17:00 from the Tokyo Dome
It’s January 4th. It’s Wrestle Kingdom. Let’s get to it.
This will be a straightforward recap of the show, but if you’re looking for some context you can read my Wrestle Kingdom Preview here.
Here we go…
New Japan Rumble
The pre-show battle royal saw a couple of the favourites make early exits as Katsuya Kitamura and YOSHI-HASHI were pinned by Chase Owens and David Finlay respectively. Henare debuted a new gimmick – that of a stereotypical Pacific Islander – so it would appear his time as a young lion is over. The juniors of Suzuki-gun controlled the middle portion, but were thankfully dealt with before long, and the late appearances of Kojima and Tenzan went down well with the crowd. Cheeseburger again made it to the last two, but also again came up short, this time to surprise final entrant Masahito Kakihara. Kakihara, who is known for his time in UWFi, nailed his legsweep STO and got the three-count to earn the win then spoke on the mic about beating cancer. Wearing a Takayamania t-shirt, he asked the crowd to support Takayama’s efforts to stand in the Tokyo Dome once more, then Takayama’s music played us out.
IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship
Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) (w/ Rocky Romero) (c) vs. The Young Bucks (Nick & Matt Jackson)
Stereo sharpshooters from Yoh and Matt gave way to a portion of control from Roppongi 3K, whose slick double-teaming led to stereo tope con hilos. It looked like Yoh had hurt his back, though, and the Bucks were quick to capitalise with a German suplex on the apron, followed by a powerbomb to manager Romero on the ramp! Back in, an apron powerbomb on Yoh got a near-fall and the punishment continued, with the Bucks cutting off an attempted hot tag. Matt was hoist by his own petard by a back body drop on the ramp, however, then Yoh avoided a dive which saw the Bucks take each other out and finally the hot tag was made.
Sho received a nasty back elbow from Nick, but recovered to deliver a German suplex to both opponents! A double-team Dominator earned two, then 3K ran wild with signature offence until Nick stopped the rot and Matt was tagged back in. He clubbed Yoh’s injured back and scored a buckle bomb before a nasty double-team swanton/rope-hung DDT got a near-fall. Matt cinched in the sharpshooter, but somehow Yoh was able to scramble to the ropes. Sho intervened to enable stereo single-leg crabs from 3K, but the Bucks eventually freed themselves. Nick and Sho then punished the other’s partner in a funny moment before Nick took out Sho with a step-up corkscrew dive to the floor. Yoh was isolated, subjected to the Meltzer Driver, and Nick’s sharpshooter earned the tap-out to give the Bucks the titles for a seventh time.
Good match. The focus on Yoh’s back provided a strong thread for the match and personally I found the result a surprise. ***1/2
NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship Gauntlet Match
- Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Takashi Iizuka & Zack Sabre Jr.) vs. Michael Elgin & War Machine (Hanson & Raymond Rowe)
Elgin scored the combination Samoan Drop/Fallaway Slam to Sabre and Taichi, then landed a slingshot splash and delayed suplex to Iizuka, before Hanson was subject to some customary Suzuki-gun cheating. Next, Rowe got the better of Sabre with some huge strikes and the match broke down. Hanson missed a moonsault, but War Machine scored a pop-up slam, only for Iizuka to interject with his metal mitten, and this allowed Sabre to wrap Rowe up like a pretzel for the submission.
- Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Takashi Iizuka & Zack Sabre Jr.) vs. CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Beretta)
Sabre’s Penalty Kick almost put paid to Yano immediately, but he bested Taichi, nailed a low-blow and rolled him up for the three-count!
- CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Beretta) vs. Taguchi Japan (Ryusuke Taguchi, Juice Robinson & Togi Makabe)
Juice started well with right hands to every member of CHAOS, then Makabe kept things rolling with mounted punches and a lariat. Captain Taguchi directed traffic as his teammates hit running clotheslines and he followed with a springboard hip attack. Ishii and Beretta were clotheslined by Makabe then taken out by Juice’s plancha, but in the ring Yano countered the BomAss Ye to school boy for the three-count!
- CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Beretta) vs. Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (c)
Loa dumped Beretta with a Death Valley Driver on the apron while Fale took care of Yano. Ishii dealt with both Tama and Tanga, but he couldn’t lift Fale – that is until duelling clotheslines and a headbutt weakened the big man and Ishii scored the suplex! The advantage was short-lived, however, with the Guerrillas hitting a Tongan Twist on Beretta. An attempted back suplex was twice blocked, but the moonsault was countered mid-air to a Gun Stun! Tama stalked Beretta for another, but Beretta blocked it and nailed the Dudebuster. One, two, three! New champions! Whole lotta stuff, little downtime and decent overall. ***
Special Singles Match
Kota Ibushi vs. Cody (w/ Brandi)
A slick early exchange saw Ibushi outmanoeuvre Cody, who responded with a middle finger and by briefly applying his American Nightmare submission. Ibushi sent him to the floor with a frankensteiner, but his plancha had the unfortunate side-effect of taking out Brandi and his concern was met with a right hand from Cody. Dastardly. Back in, the springboard kick earned a two-count and a butterfly lock targeted the neck. With the referee distracted by Brandi, Cody jabbed at Ibushi’s neck with a chair, but Kota fired up to hit a baseball slide dropkick and the Golden Triangle moonsault! Springboard dropkick and a strike flurry, and the standing moonsault earned two. Out on the apron, Ibushi looked for a piledriver, but Cody blocked it and delivered Cross Rhodes to the floor! Oof, that was a nasty landing for Ibushi.
Ibushi just rolled back in at 19, much to Cody’s chagrin, so he lifted the deadweight Golden Star to the top-rope and hit a springboard super frankensteiner for two! An attempted second Cross Rhodes was countered and Ibushi lawn-darted Cody into the turnbuckle! Both men threw right hands, but Ibushi landed a palm strike and nailed the sit-out powerbomb! Two-count only. The Kamigoye was avoided and a short-arm lariat earned a near-fall, but the Disaster Kick was ducked and Ibushi nailed a head kick. Arm-trapped German for two. Kamigoye! Phoenix Splash! One, two, three!
I was not expecting a match this good. Yes, there was some convenient no-selling, but the layout was tremendous and everyone played their part, including Brandi. One of Cody’s best singles matches ever and Ibushi delivers as always. ****
IWGP Tag Team Championship
Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.) (c) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japón (EVIL & SANADA)
KES immediately hit Evil with the Killer Bomb and only a diving save from Sanada prevented the three-count! The prone Evil was left isolated for a few minutes, then when Sanada was tagged in, Davey Boy casually slammed him over the top-rope to the floor. KES proceeded to slaughter the young lions before Archer chokeslammed Evil onto everyone! Back in, Davey Boy kept Sanada grounded and a double-team sidewalk slam/splash got a two-count. Clotheslines from Archer were eventually counteracted by an enzuigiri by Sanada, but Evil was charged from the apron to prevent the tag. Gutwrench and double-arm suplexes from Davey Boy, both for two, then a chinlock was applied. Archer scored a huge Rock Bottom for a near-fall, then Sanada finally landed a ‘rana to make the hot tag. Evil smashed Archer with a discus clotheslines and bulldog, blocked a chokeslam, then downed him with a lariat for two. Evil was blocked up top and Archer landed a top-rope T-Bone superplex! Sanada tagged in and scored the leapfrog dropkick to Davey Boy, but Archer scored a chokeslam. Hart Attack to Evil followed by a Killer Bomb to Sanada! Two-count only! Evil blocked a second and flattened Archer with the STO, then he and Sanada delivered the Magic Killer to Davey Boy. One, two, no! Moonsault from Sanada – one, two three! New champions!
Archer and Davey Boy pummelled their opponents throughout and the LIJ boys looked significantly worse for wear by the end of the match, but we arrived at the right result. Hard-hitting and a pretty good match. ***1/2
NEVER Openweight Championship (Hair vs. Hair)
Minoru Suzuki (c) vs. Hirooki Goto
Suzuki delivered a big slap to start us off and Goto replied with the same, then both men threw elbows before Suzuki went for an early Sleeper. They backed onto the middle-rope in the corner where Suzuki effectively hanged Goto. Suzuki pushed away the ring doctor and sent the barely-conscious Goto to the floor, where he rammed him into the guardrail then smashed him with a chair. Again the ring doctor tried to take a look and somehow the referee managed to convince Suzuki to give him some space. Back in, Goto fired up to a laughing Suzuki, who flattened him with an elbow strike. More fire from Goto, more strikes from Suzuki – the Penalty Kick was caught, but Suzuki still landed an elbow. At last Goto went on a run with a spinning heel kick and backdrop, but Suzuki twice countered the Ushigoroshi. At the third attempt, after blocking the piledriver, Goto finally nailed it.
The young lions blocked as many charging Suzuki-gun members as they could and YOSHI-HASHI was on hand to stop Taichi interfering, but in the ring Suzuki absolutely levelled Goto with a running dropkick. Slaps from Suzuki, loads of them, and the Sleeper was locked in again! Goto was out of it, but he recovered to block the piledriver and followed by placing Suzuki on the top-rope. Suzuki cinched in a guillotine choke, but Goto powered up and nailed the super Ushigoroshi! Two-count only. Goto’s weak elbows were met by hammer blows from Suzuki until Goto resorted to a headbutt and landed the inverted GTR. GTR! One, two, three!
The Suzuki-gun minions tried to usher their leader to the back, but the referee ensured the deed was done. Suzuki demanded to sit on his own chair in the ring and then shaved his own head! Suzuki, you are an honourable man indeed. This was an intense, heated affair that built slowly and effectively and benefitted from an engaged crowd. The hair vs. hair stipulation undoubtedly helped too. Sterling work by both men. ****
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Marty Scurll (c) vs. Will Ospreay vs. KUSHIDA vs. Hiromu Takahashi
Special mention for Daryl the Cat’s glittery mask and Marty Scurll’s full-size wings – very impressive.
Faithful reader, I hope you don’t mind if I forego the play-by-play here – I tried to keep up, I really did. Safe to say this was crazy-town banana-pants in terms of incident. Early on, Kushida forced the match to the floor by landing a somersault from the top-rope then out beyond the guardrail Ospreay wiped out everyone with a moonsault from the scaffolding structure! He and Kushida had several great exchanges, all of which were cut-off by Scurll, while Hiromu struggled to get anything going for the majority of the match. Scurll hit Ospreay with his own OsCutter then taped Hiromu by his arm to the guardrail and snapped his fingers! In the ring, it looked like Kushida might earn the win with an armbar, but Ospreay powered up and powerbombed Kushida into the turnbuckle. Scurll returned to the ring with a handful of powder and blinded Kushida, but Kushida managed to land Back to the Future and after the pin was broken up by Ospreay all hell broke loose. Hiromu eventually succeeded in working his way back into contention and looked like he had it won when he planted Ospreay with the Time Bomb, only for Scurll to drag the referee out of the ring. Moments later, Ospreay worked an opening for the OsCutter, planted Scurll to the mat and got the three-count to regain the title!
A thoroughly entertaining spotfest. Not everything went smoothly, but the pace was relentless and they worked some fun stories in amongst the madness. I’m sure it won’t be everyone’s thing, but I had a great time watching this. ****
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. “Switchblade” Jay White
Neither man was able to claim an advantage early on, that is until Tanahashi sent White to the floor and missed his follow-up plancha, damaging the knee which kept him off the last tour and giving White an easy target to aim at. Back in, a snapped backdrop earned two and White used grounded Dragon Screws to set up an Indian Deathlock. Tanahashi stretched for the ropes, but White stayed on top with another Dragon Screw after Tanahashi landed awkwardly. Eventually Tanahashi scored one of his own and followed with a flipping senton from the middle-rope for two, then twice ripped White’s leg over the ropes to send him to the floor. Because he’s still a crazy bastard, Tanahashi then hit a huge crossbody from the top-rope to the floor!
Back in, Tanahashi couldn’t capitalise and White dumped him with a very nice deadlift German suplex. A suplex onto the apron followed, but Tanahashi denied him a diving crossbody by rolling across the ring, then slapped the young upstart. Hatch suplex into the buckle and a Death Valley Driver by White, but Tanahashi countered the missile dropkick into another Dragon Screw and swinging neckbreaker. Up top, White blocked Tanahashi, but the Ace recovered and hit a super swinging neckbreaker! Sling Blade to Switchblade! And another! Two-count only. High Fly Flow crossbody! High Fly Flow missed! Grounded elbow strikes left Tanahashi laying and White planted him with the Kiwi Crusher. Two-count only. Tanahashi blocked the Blade Runner and scored a Dragon suplex for a near-fall, then delivered a crossbody to the back of a standing White. High Fly Flow! One, two, three – Tanahashi retains.
This was fine. The layout was actually good, but the crowd were unfamiliar with the newly-returned White and lack of heat hurt the match throughout. It was also in the impossible position between the junior four-way and Jericho/Omega – a tough break. White will learn from the experience, but ultimately it was the right decision to keep the belt on Tanahashi (but someone please convince him to take some time off). ***
IWGP United States Championship (No Disqualification)
Kenny Omega (w/ The Young Bucks) (c) vs. Chris Jericho
Jericho entered to Fozzy’s “Judas”, resplendent in his light-up jacket. Omega was presumably cosplaying as a game character (I must plead ignorance).
After the Young Lions and Young Bucks were sent from the ring, we were off. Omega threw himself at Jericho, but the veteran used an eye rake to take control with chops then countered a ‘rana into the Walls of Jericho! Omega used the ropes to free himself, sent Jericho to the floor, then dropkicked him over the guardrail. Springboard crossbody from Omega, but Jericho moved and Omega smashed through the English commentary table! Holy shit. After Jericho pushed referee Red Shoes to the floor and gave a young lion the Walls of Jericho, Omega fought back and flung a monitor at Jericho. He laid a table on top of Jericho, climbed up the scaffold and double stomped his prone opponent! Jericho recovered to suplex Omega back over the guardrail, then beautifully timed a dropkick as Omega attempted to springboard back in. “Shut your mouth, fuckface!” said Jericho to no-one in particular after setting up a table, then he powerbombed Omega onto the floor! He took a photographer’s camera and gave the crowd the middle finger, then stayed on top in the ring with a diving back elbow. A middle-rope missile dropkick followed for two and he cut off a comeback with the Lionsault for a two-count! Hurricanrana from Omega, Jericho sent to the floor, and Kenny capitalised with a tope con hilo!
Leapfrog bulldog in the ring and a cross-legged Ushigoroshi. Jericho blocked the V-Trigger, Omega scored a jumping knee, Jericho countered into the Walls! Omega crawled to the apron, retrieved some cold spray and broke the hold by spraying Jericho in the face, but Jericho managed to send him into a chair that was wedged in the turnbuckle. And again. And a third time. And Kenny was busted open. Jericho targeted the cut with right hands, but Omega smashed him with a knee and hit a pair of Snapdragon suplexes. A third followed when the One-Winged Angel was blocked, but Jericho turned the tide with a huge chairshot to Omega’s face. Many more chairshots rained down on Omega until Jericho made the mistake of heading up top – Omega smacked him with a jumping knee and Jericho went crashing through the table outside!
Back in, Omega cracked Jericho with a trio of knee strikes and the double underhook piledriver for a near-fall, then another brutal knee strike connected, but Jericho rolled through the One-Winged Angel and again applied the Walls of Jericho! Jericho cranked the hold and placed a knee in Omega’s back, but Omega reached the ropes and Jericho released the hold. Codebreaker blocked, jumping knee strike, One-Winged Angel! One, two, and Jericho grabbed the bottom-rope! Omega headed up top, got crotched, but recovered to dump Jericho face-first onto the turnbuckle. Middle-rope moonsault missed and Jericho hit the Codebreaker – two-count only! Jericho placed a chair on Omega and looked for the Lionsault once more, but Omega threw said chair at him, then spiked him with the One-Winged Angel onto the chair! One, two, three!
That was a wild ride. An epic which made good on the promise of the build and a fantastic effort by both men. Jericho’s best singles match in years and very different kind of performance by Omega, who was on the receiving end of most of the punishment. Great stuff. ****3/4
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito
Okada in long trousers – what sorcery is this? Very strange.
Naito flustered Okada by upsetting his usual routine then took a little wander around ringside. Upon returning he scored a hip toss and seated dropkick, but Okada blocked the corner dropkick and sent Naito to the floor with one of his own. Outside, he kicked Naito over the barrier, but Naito hit back by scoring a neckbreaker over the top of the guardrail! A neckbreaker on the apron came next, followed by a big missile dropkick for two, then elbows targeted Okada’s neck and a spitwad landed right in his face. Naito dropped Okada across his knee and this time the slingshot corner dropkick hit the mark. Neckbreaker for two and a cravat lock was applied, until finally Okada managed to score a DDT. Kip up, back elbows, and Okada ran three-quarters of the way around the ring to deliver a big boot. A barrier-hung DDT spiked Naito and now Okada looked firmly in control.
Back in the ring, however, Naito avoided a charge and again dropped Okada over his knee before hitting a reverse DDT for two. Okada flipped out of Gloria, planted Naito with a flapjack and we were back to square one. Okada landed his reverse neckbreaker out of the corner, slammed Naito, then delivered a picture-perfect diving elbow before signalling the Rainmaker. Naito blocked it, but Okada was twice able to apply the Cobra Clutch, dragging Naito to the mat and denying his escape attempts until Naito scrambled to a rope-break. Okada landed elbows in the corner, but Naito was able to legsweep him on the apron and followed with a rope-hung neckbreaker! Up top, and the super reverse frankensteiner connected! Two-count only! Gloria – two-count only! Naito headed up top again, but the rarely-seen Stardust Press missed the mark!
They traded elbows and kicks. Shotgun dropkick from Okada, flying forearm from Naito. Okada was lifted to the top-rope, but he smashed Naito to the mat and… missed the diving shotgun dropkick. He blocked Naito in the corner, though, pulling him away from the turnbuckle with a huge German! Rainmaker! Two-count only! Naito struggled and blocked the tombstone, but he looked beaten, so Okada calmly ducked his enzuigiri and reapplied the Cobra Clutch but out of nowhere Naito nailed Destino!
They traded elbows as they got up from the mat and as they stood and exchanged blows the crowd noise was incredible. Naito launched a spitwad and slapped Okada to the mat. Spinning reverse frankensteiner out of the corner! Two-count only! Destino blocked and countered into the Rainmaker! Good lord. An exhausted Okada lifted Naito once more, but Naito ducked and landed a counter-Destino! 2.9!!! Elbows from Okada, enzuigiri from Naito, The Dropkick from Okada! The tombstone planted Naito, but he countered the Rainmaker to Destino! He lifted Okada for another, but this proved to be a huge mistake – Okada blocked it and nailed the spinning tombstone! Rainmaker!!! One, two, three!
Fantastic match and the crowd noise towards the end was monumental. Ridiculous as it sounds, I really thought that Okada’s change of outfit was sign that he’d lose. Poor Naito… I’m gutted for him. Where does he go from here? And who can possibly challenge Okada’s throne? I’ll let you discuss that. This was killer main event – I loved it. ****3/4
Post-match promo from Gedo and Okada and we’re out.
Final thoughts: Spectacular.
New Year’s Dash is tomorrow, so I’ll back for a quick recap of that. See you then.