New Japan Pro Wrestling
January 4th, 2019
Kevin Kelly, Don Callis & Chris Charlton on commentary.
#1 Contender Gauntlet: NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship
BULLET CLUB (Marty Scurll, Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi)
YUJI NAGATA, JEFF COBB & DAVID FINLAY
Marty and Nagata start off and lock up. Counter wrestling from both and a quick standoff. Shots traded, with Marty hitting Just Kidding. “Woo”s from the crowd. Nagata outsmarts Marty to reply, but Marty goes for the fingers. Nagata breaks out of it and locks in the Nagata Lock, but Marty gets to the ropes. Tag to Cobb, but Marty goes for the eyes and tags in Page. Triple team on Cobb as Yujiro comes in, Cobb fights back but the numbers game is too much with Hangman landing a great standing shooting star.
Cobb goes to ringside, but eats an apron superkick and apron shooting star shoulder block. Back inside, Page hits the Buckshot Lariat, but gets only 2. Attempt at Rite of Passage, but Cobb reverses and tosses Page. Tags to Yujiro and Finlay, with Finlay laying in shots. Yujiro gets control with the low dropkick and Fisherman Buster, but Nagata breaks it up. Finlay hits the Irish Curse, goes for the stunner, Yujiro pushes him off and Chase Owens interferes but Finlay evades and rolls up Yujiro for the first WIN.
CHAOS (Hirooki Goto & Best Friends)
We get the bell and the action starts up again fast, with Goto and Nagata trading shots in the ring. Lariat from Goto takes down Nagata. Goto looks for a suplex but Nagata gets the Nagata Lock II, but Best Friends break it up. Finlay mounts some offense but eats a running knee from Trent, who attempts a dive on Cobb who catches him. Trent escapes and sets up a great tope from Chuckie, and follows with a springboard moonsault on Finlay and Cobb on the floor.
In ring, Nagata lays kicks into Goto. Goto lands ushigoroshi and covers, but Nagata is out at 2. Tag to Chuckie, who stomps the mudhole. Tag to Trent, Best Friends double team Nagata, hit the hugging elbow drop and play to the crowd. Trent with chops to Nagata, but Nagata works him down into the Fujiwara but its broken up. Nagata fights back and hits an Exploder on Chuckie and belly to belly on Trent coming off the ropes, and tags in Cobb as Goto gets the tag on the other side.
Cobb lands offense on Goto in the corner, and lands a big sidewinder suplex and standing moonsault for a 2 count. Cobb lifts Goto for a rack, but Goto reverses into a crucifix for 2. Big lariats from Cobb and Goto, and Goto is able to take Cobb off his feet. Tag to Chuckie who stays on Cobb, Trent and Chuckie try to double team but Cobb gets a DOUBLE SUPLEX ON BOTH BEST FRIENDS. Thats nuts.
Finlay in hot on both Best Friends, and floors Chuckie with a middle rope Euro. Chuckie comes back with a short piledriver on Finlay but Nagata breaks up the pin at 2. Chuckie misses the moonsault, Finlay follows with a deep roll up and gets the pin again for another WIN!
SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki & Killer Elite Squad)
Suzuki-Gun moves with purpose to the ring, and they jump Team Blue Justice before the bell rings. Nagata and Suzuki face off in ring, and go strike for strike. Big slaps from both Nagata goes for a suplex but Suzuki grabs a guillotine and transitions into an octopus. Nagata gets the Exploder this time, covers but only gets 2. Suzuki gets the rear naked and pulls Nagata into his corner, and tags in Smith.
Nagata takes out Smith’s leg and tags in Cobb, who looks to lift Smith. Smith fights Cobb off, but Cobb is able to get an Olympic Slam. Cobb goes for the standing moonsault but Smith moves and hits a bridging Saito suplex for 2. Nagata and Suzuki fight on the outside, as Finlay and Archer are tagged in and Finlay attempts the rollup, but KES is able to turn the tide and hit the Killer Bomb for the 3 count and the WIN.
YUJI NAGATA, JEFF COBB & DAVID FINLAY
TOGI MAKABE, TORU YANO & RYUSUKE TAGUCHI
The action picks up right away on the outside, with Suzuki on Taguchi. Suzuki takes a hard swipe at Kevin Kelly on commentary, before tossing Taguchi back in and stepping on his face. Tag to Smith who mocks Hulk Hogan and hits a big leg drop, cover but only 2. Tag to Archer, double team body slam on Taguchi. Archer goes Old School Undertaker with the rope walk, tags Suzuki before coming off the top with the clubbing blow on Taguchi.
Taguchi tries to fire back, but Suzuki knocks him back down. Suzuki whips him, Taguchi tries for the hip attack but Suzuki just moves out of the way, but hits it on a second attempt and tags in Makabe. Makabe with the corner shots and Northern Lights on Suzuki, but Suzuki reverses it and hits a boot in the corner, snapmares Makabe and hits a big PK. Cover on Makabe but only 2.
Makabe back up and trades shots with Suzuki, Makabe rocks Suzuki before Suzuki just DROPS Makabe with a stiff and loud shot. Makabe comes back up, but eats another thudding forearm. They keep trading, Makabe keeps coming back and floors Suzuki with a left arm lariat. Tags to Yano and Smith, Yano comes in hot but gets distracted by Taguchi’s play calling. Yano looks to use the turnbuckle pad but Smith and Archer counter and hit the Hart Attack, covers but Yano is out at 2. Another double team on Yano, but Yano still kicks out at 2.
Side slam/combo from KES on Yano but Taguchi breaks it up. Suzuki looks for the Gotch on Makabe but Taguchi breaks it up and knocks down Suzuki with a hip attack. Yano back in with KES and looks for a double low blow but its blocked. KES gets control, whips Makabe who comes back and lands lariats, KES absorbs them but Yano gets behind and hits double low blows, rolls up Smith and gets the 3 count and the WIN to become number one contenders!
Togi Makabe, Toru Yano & Ryusuki Taguchi win the Gauntlet by last defeating Suzuki-Gun to become #1 Contenders to the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championships
JAY’S RATING: 2 out of 5
I sort of missed the annual battle royal, to be honest. I get that there were greater stakes here with the title shot on the line but… I honestly found it really hard to care. There werent enough teams involved to really have any one team feel dominant or like they could get a streak going, so it ended up feeling more to me like a bunch of essentially similar sprints that got shorter as the match progressed so I couldnt really end up getting invested in anything over the long term of the match. A nice idea to try, but honestly I’d rather they added stakes to the old battle royal than do this again. Everyone did fine with what they were given, I just didnt care for what they were given that much.
We open with some big announcements: more US dates including kicking off the G1 in Dallas, UK/London dates, and 2 NIGHTS IN THE TOKYO DOME IN JANUARY 2020! Well. Hello New Japan.
NEVER Openweight Championship
WILL OSPREAY vs KOTA IBUSHI (c)
We get the bell and neither man moves. GREAT CHOICE, as we know how fast both of these competitors can be. Then the flurry begins, Will gets the monkey flip and backflip taunt. Ibushi tries to come in and land Kamigoye early, but Will gets out and looks for the Os-Cutter, but Ibushi blocks it and we stand off. Back at it and the action picks up again, with Will getting sent outside by Ibushi. Ibushi looks for Golden Triangle but Will hops on the apron and kicks Ibushi in the midsection as Ibushi is mid-flip! Will runs the rops and nails the Space Flying Tiger Drop, wiping out Ibushi at ringside. BEAUTIFUL execution.
Will rolls Ibushi back in, covers but Ibushi out at 2. Commentary talks about how Will essentially grew up idolizing Ibushi, and how he’s wanted this match since he was 15 years old. Will puts Ibushi in the corner and lays in big chops, then brings Ibushi out of the corner with a backbreaker. Cover, but only 2. Will pie faces Ibushi and fires him up, laying in forearms. They go nose to nose and trade blows, Ibushi snaps off a rana that sends Will outside, the crowd fires up and Ibushi hits a top rope corkscrew Asai moonsault taking out Will on the floor. Ugh. Gorgeous.
Back in, Ibushi hits a springboard missile dropkick on Will, then turns a rollup into a deadlift Pheonix Suplex, bridges for the cover but only gets 2! Ibushi looks for a bomb but Will gets a rollup for 2 before eating an Ibushi kick. Will turns it around off the ropes with the handspring enziguri and catches his breath. Ibushi evades Will in the corner and hits a powerslam, looks to fly from the corner but Will comes in fast and hits Cheeky Nandos! Rollup by Will but only gets 2.
Will stays on Ibushi with shots to the head. Ibushi fires back and they trade. Both competitors ask for it and fire up, Ibushi seems to take the strike advantage and then chops Will in the heart to take him down. Ibushi still in control, lifts Will for the bomb but Will drops behind and snatches an enziguri, both look for bombs and drivers but both counter over and over until Will is able to catch Ibushi off the ropes with the Standing Spanish Fly. Great sequence.
Will lines up Ibushi and hits the wrap around superkick, pulls Ibushi in and looks for Stormbreaker but Ibushi turns it into a sharp rana rollup for 2! Lawn Dart by Ibushi gets reversed into a release German by Will, but Ibushi rolls through and shakes it off and hits a Boma Ye style knee right to Will’s temple! GREAT strike, Will looks out of it as the ref checks on him. Ibushi hits the Golden Bomb, covers but Will is able to kick out at 2.
Ibushi calls for the end and goes to climb, looks like for the Pheonix Press, but Will takes out the legs and crotches Ibushi, whose leg is caught putting him in the tree of woe. Will sits in front of him and smacks him, talks shit and smacks him more but Ibushi fights back from upside down. Will fires up and starts viciously booting Ibushi in the head, the ref pulls him back but Ibushi is stiull hung up. Will sits him back up, Ibushi accidentally busts himself open as he hits the turnbuckle pole, Will looks to hoist him from the top but Ibushi fights it off and hits a double stomp to Will while Will is seated on the top rope! Ibushi is bleeding from his face.
Ibushi looks for the deadlift middle rope German, but Will lands on his feet! Ibushi turns around and cant believe it as Will comes in fast with the Robinson Special! Will calls for Os-Cutter but Ibushi catches him and looks for the straight-jacket, hits the German with it but only gets 2! Ibushi keeps wrist control and looks for Kamigoye but Will evades and hits a roundhouse kick to the head! Big lariat from Ibushi but Will stays standing. Ibushi with the flurry but Will hits a HUGE lariat of his own to take down Ibushi!
Will picks Ibushi up and looks for Stormbreaker, Ibushi drops behind, they each counter, Ibushi gets Will in a cradle tombstone piledriver right on his neck and covers but Will is out at 2! Kamigoye attempt but Will is out and hits the wraparound superkick again, and decapitates Ibushi with a massive back elbow to the back of Ibushi’s head! Ibushi might be out. Will pushes the ref aside and looks for Stormbreaker, Ibushi is barely moving, Will hoists him and lands it! Cover by Will, and thats the 3 count and the WIN as we have a new champion!
Will Ospreay defeats Kota Ibushi by pinfall after Stormbreaker to win the NEVER Openweight Championship for the first time
JAY’S RATING: 4 out of 5
It was an exciting prospect to begin with, opening the show with this match, and it certainly delivered up to the hype. Will showed himself to be able to go blow for blow with Ibushi, with both competitors not relying too heavily on their speed which would have been the expected move. It ended up being a strike and power game in the end, with Will firmly arriving with a win over a man he has idolized for a long time. Ibushi also showed why is and will always be a title contender, and I think its only a matter of time before he has a bigger belt on him. However, I cant tell if this injury is legit or an angle, as that back elbow looked nasty as hell and I first and foremost just hope he is ok. It would also be heartbreaking for his momentum to pause here due to injury, as I feel Kota ready to break out to the next level following dropping the NEVER title. I will be watching this closely. As far as this match goes, however, truly exceptional work by two of the best in the world, and Ospreay has arrived as a heavyweight contender without question. Very excited about the immediate future here.
After the match, Ibushi still isnt moving. The stretcher is brought out, and Ibushi is carried out. That back elbow looked like it may have made more contact than it was supposed to, and it really landed at the base of Ibushi’s skull. Please, please please no.
Triple Threat: IWGP World Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
ROPPONGI 3K vs LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Shingo Takagi & BUSHI)
SUZUKI-GUN (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
The action starts fast, as R3K takes out Suzuki-Gun, and hit great stereo tope con hilos on LIJ before getting cut off back in the ring by Suzuki-Gun. Suzuki-Gun double teams Yoh, hitting a great suplex single leg dropkick combo. Desperado stays on Yoh with a chinlock, but Yoh gets to the ropes. Quick tag to Kanemaru who kicks down BUSHI at ringside, and then puts Yoh in the corner. Yoh fights back and takes down Kanemaru with a thrust kick, and gets the tag to Sho.
Sho takes down Shingo and then floors Kanemaru with a clothesline. Desperado in but Sho drops him with a dropkick, BUSHI comes in but Kanemaru cuts him off. Shingo distracts Kanemaru and tags himself in, and faces off with Sho. Shingo crushes Sho with chops, and follows with a big knee but Sho hits a lariat. Shingo fires back with hard shots though and keeps control. Shingo hoists Sho but Sho escapes behind, Kanemaru in and Sho is able to get a DOUBLE GERMAN SUPLEX on both Kanemaru and Shingo!
Action breaks down fast and Desperado lands a spinbuster on Sho, but R3K takes him down with jumping knees. R3K double team on Shingo, with a backbreaker/flying knee drop combo, cover but only gets 2. R3K stays on Shingo and call for 3K but it gets cut off, allowing Shingo to get a double pumping bomber on R3K! Gory bomb from Shingo on Sho, then lines him up and lands a Pumping Bomber to the back of Sho’s head, then one more in front! Covers Sho, but somehow Sho powers out at 2! Shingo screams and hoists Sho for Last of the Dragon, lands it and gets the 3 count and the WIN, as we have MORE NEW CHAMPIONS!
Los Ingobernables De Japon (Shingo Takagi/BUSHI) defeats Suzuki-Gun & Roppongi 3K by pinfall after Last of the Dragon to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship for the first time
JAY’S RATING: 2.75 out of 5
This was a solid little match that was laid out to accomplish a couple of very specific goals and delivering on them, primarily establishing the dominance of Shingo Takagi and the impact of his addition to LIJ by putting the titles on him and BUSHI. I wish the other teams could have had a bit more time to show their stuff, as they did well with what they were given but it just wasnt much time for three teams to really sink their teeth in. But again, I dont think that was the goal of this match story-wise. I just find it a bit of a shame because it robs some electricity from the other two teams on the biggest stage of the year. Perhaps they might get some more time tomorrow at New Year’s Dash? We’ll see. Nonetheless, Shingo came off looking like an absolute BEAST, which again was a main goal here. Shingo Takagi is definitely one to watch over the next couple of years, as his transition to heavyweight will be SEAMLESS once its time. And holy shit what he is capable of then. I hope New Japan sees the potential in investment in him.
Revolution Pro Wrestling Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship
ZACK SABRE, JR. vs TOMOHIRO ISHII (c)
ZSJ out first with Taka doing the mouthpiece thing. Ishii is out with the current RevPro belt, with will go into a museum after this match and a new belt will be held by the winner. The new belt shares a design similarity with the NEVER belts, which is interesting given the NJPW/RevPro relationship. The bell rings and things start fast with both competitors looking to strike until Ishii lands a backdrop suplex. ZSJ fires back and snatches the armbar as Ishii writhes and cant escape. Ishii wriggles toward the ropes and finally gets the break.
ZSJ stays on the arm, stomping the elbow. The action slows as ZSJ tortures the arm joints and lays in kicks to Ishii, who looks to fire back but has trouble with the forearms due to ZSJ’s submission work, which he is able to lock back in. ZSJ catches both arms until Ishii gets his foot in the ropes. A kick to the back wakes up Ishii, as ZSJ mocks him. Ishii gets that look in his eye and absorbs uppercuts from ZSJ, Ishii comes at him but ZSJ grounds him immediately again. Ishii reverses into an ankle-lock, but ZSJ reverses with an enziguri before Ishii runs him over with a tackle.
Ishii lines ZSJ up in the corner and lays in a big chop, and another. Chops continue as Ishii favors the arm. ZSJ reverses with a kick but Ishii comes back and squashes ZSJ in the corner and then tosses him with a suplex. Ishii sits ZSJ up top and looks for a superplex, and stalls with ZSJ before dropping him but ZSJ turns it over and snaps Ishii’s arm with a great reversal! ZSJ keeps on the arm of Ishii, manipulating the wrist and elbow before hitting a shoulder arm breaker. Action picks up as both try for counters, with ZSJ getting the octopus in deep. Ishii tries to walk to the ropes, but ZSJ turns it into a sunset bomb and covers but only gets 2!
ZSJ hits a thudding PK on Ishii and stalks his prey. He picks up Ishii and looks for the Zack Driver, but Ishii powers out. Kicks from ZSJ but Ishii absorbs each one and then chops ZSJ right in the throat! Ishii with a folding powerbomb, stacks the pin but only gets 2. Ishii looks for a lariat but ZSJ kicks the arm, they trade until Ishii lands a big headbutt and huge lariat, covers but ZSJ kicks out at 2.
Ishii is looking for the Brainbuster but ZSJ fights it off, Ishii tries again but ZSJ gets behind for a choke, Ishii rolls through and tries for a sliding lariat, ZSJ turns it into the European Clutch but Ishii powers out at 2! They trade holds until Ishii lands the sliding lariat, Brainbuster attempt again but ZSJ out again who snatches the arm, Ishii looks to power out but ZSJ gets the octopus again. ZSJ rolls back and grounds him with Hurrah Another Year…, wrenching both arms back! Ishii cant fight back and ZSJ gets the submission WIN to become a 3 time Revolution Pro Wrestling Undisputed Heavyweight Champion!
Zack Sabre, Jr. defeats Tomohiro Ishii by submission with a grounded Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than the Last; The Inexorable March of Progress Will Lead Us All to Happiness to win the RevPro Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship for the 3rd Time
JAY’S RATING: 3.75 out of 5
While not the best work I’ve seen by either, this was nonetheless a focused, hard hitting, competitive showing by two of the most reliable players you will find anywhere around. Ishii still came off looking like a beast while ZSJ just proved more savvy, focusing on the arms from the top and thus taking a huge chunk of Ishii’s game away, which ultimately proved the deciding factor. And I will never complain about putting a belt on ZSJ, especially on a New Japan card as I hope his star continues to rise there. I think ZSJ could be a future IC and IWGP competitor, and his style would bring something SO UNIQUE to the main event on a platform like this. Just solid work all around here as both move forward looking strong.
Triple Threat: IWGP World Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
THE YOUNG BUCKS vs LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (EVIL & SANADA)
GUERRILLAS OF DESTINY (c)
New music for GoD, and I DIG. IT. I actually really liked their slow burn music from before, but this feels in line with their new shtick while still having the heavy baseline to give it that depth and march-like quality. Well done on that one. Jado is at ringside with the kendo stick and some cool facepaint.
Nick and Tama start us off at the bell. Action starts fast, but Tama faces off with Nick and offers the hand. Nick doesnt trust it and tags in Matt. Tama says “he’s a good guy!” Tama looks for handshakes everywhere, but no one trusts him. EVIL takes the hand, but its a tag and EVIL dumps Tama outside! EVIL takes Matt out onto the entry ramp and slams him hard back first, then runs the length of the runway just to run back and floor Matt with a hard lariat, dropping Matt on his back again!
EVIL tosses Matt back in, but Loa tags himself in and comes at EVIL. Powerslam from Loa, covers EVIL but only gets 2. Tag to Tama and double team from GoD on EVIL as the others get knocked down. They climb the corners, Loa lands the headbutt but Tama gets cut off and the Bucks get double team offense on both opponents. Bucks double team on EVIL while keeping the others at bay, and they are firmly in charge. Matt covers EVIL, but only gets 2.
Sunset flip into the sharpshooter from Matt, Nick cuts off SANADA and takes him down on the floor with a corkscrew dive. Loa looks to break up the submission, but Tama stops him from breaking the rules, since he’s, after all, a “good guy.” EVIL is finally able to get the ropes, Matt lines up a superkick but EVIL reverses and lands a lariat to take down Matt. EVIL tags SANADA who takes down GoD before taking on the Bucks. SANADA locks Nick in the Paradise Lock, GoD interrupts but Tama eats the leapfrog dropkick from SANADA.
SANADA takes out GoD with pescados at ringside, then lands one on the Bucks as well! The crowd erupts for SANADA. SANADA tosses Matt back in, looks for the moonsault into Skull End, Matt looks to reverse to Sliced Bread, SANADA gets back into Skull End but Nick hits a blockbuster. Tama gets the Tongan Twist on Nick but EVIL takes him down before eating a suplex from Loa. Matt counters a Loa suplex and hits a spear to take control. Matt climbs but LIJ cut him off and look for a double superplex, GoD in for Tower of Doom as Nick climbs and lands a big 450 on a fallen SANADA!
Jado gets in the ring with the kendo stick but Fale interrupts, looks for grenade but the Bucks fight back and take out both Jado and Fale! LIJ takes control and looks for Magic Killer but Tama breaks it up. GoD looks for Super Powerbomb but Nick gets a step up top rope rana on Loa and a double superkick on SANADA. They look for Meltzer but Tama catches a Gun Stun, LIJ in though to take out GoD, Magic Killer on Matt and a moonsault from SANADA! SANADA covers, gets the 3 count and the WIN to become IWGP Tag Team Champions for the 2nd year in a row!
Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) defeats The Young Bucks & Guerrillas of Destiny to win the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship for the 2nd Time
JAY’S RATING: 4 out of 5
I enjoyed the hell out of this match, as all four teams got to look good, some stories and characters advanced, and LIJ looked good walking away with the titles once again following their World Tag League win. I think this could have been an even better match, but the thing holding it back from me was honestly the knowledge that the Bucks would be on their way out. So as good as their action was, there wasnt the necessary drama for me in the possibility of their winning. But this doesnt mean they didnt deliver a hell of an effort. GoD has some momentum behind them with the Jay White situation so they arent hurt by dropping the belts right now, and the crowd is just all about LIJ and SANADA in particular right now (and that takes nothing away from the love for EVIL that exists as well). So all in all, a smart match that delivered good action for a crowd that was invested to begin with.
IWGP United States Championship
JUICE ROBINSON vs CODY (c)
Action starts fast before the bell with Cody looking for a belt shot, but Juice avoids and lays in shots. Juice dumps Cody who lands on his feet but fakes the knee spot to get the sucker punch in. Brandi gets a distraction in, but Juice plants Cody with a spinebuster to maintain control. Juice off the top with a cross body, Cody rolls through and looks for the Figure Four but Juice gets the Juice Box and goes to climb again. Brandi in to cover Cody, Juice comes down off the top and tells Brandi to get out of the ring. Brandi dares Juice to hit her, then leaves as Cody gets the kick on the apron.
Cody looks for Cross Rhodes off the apron, Juice reverses and looks for Pulp Friction but Cody pushes Juice hard into the corner post. Cody keeps the pressure on Juice and tosses him back in. Snap wristlock from Cody sends Juice down hard, and looks for the gourdbuster but Juice drops behind and pushes Cody who distracts the ref while Brandi hits the Bionic Spear, Cody hits Cross Rhodes but only gets 2. The ref catches Brandi in the ring and ejects Brandi from ringside. This whole bit didnt feel like it quite came off right.
Cody looks for Dins Fire on Juice but Juice drops behind and looks for Pulp Friction, but Cody fights out of it. Cross Rhodes attempt but Juice turns it into one of his own, covers but Cody is out at 2. Juice looks for the big left hand but Cody ducks and hits the Beautiful Disaster and an ugly looking Pulp Friction, covers but only gets 2. Cody takes the belt off and whips Juice, then smacks him and talks trash, telling Juice to get up. Juice answer with shots traded, crowd is behind Juice but Cody gets a superkick.
Cody flips off Juice and looks for Beautiful Disaster, but Juice hits the Left Hand of God, then hits another one, picks up Cody, turns him over and hits a big jumping Pulp Friction… but doesnt go for the cover. Juice picks him up for another one, and hits a second Pulp Friction. Juice rolls Cody over, covers and gets the 3 and the WIN to get a 2nd run with the IWGP United States title.
Juice Robinson defeats Cody by pinfall after two Pulp Frictions to win the IWGP US Championship for the 2nd Time
JAY’S RATING: 2.25 out of 5
This was fine, I guess. I mean, there were a few things working against this match to begin with, including Cody’s knee issue and how busy he is launching AEW, well, RIGHT NOW AS I TYPE THIS (and for the record, I think they are really onto something with the way they are focusing on and listening to their audience base). But it really did take its toll on the match, with some communication issues and rough spots, a shoe-horned Brandi involvement then didnt really add anything to the match (and I’m a big Brandi/Cody fan actually, it just wasnt well executed in this instance), and an overall lack of real urgency or heat for a title match. The charisma of both competitoes ultimately prevented it from sinking too badly, but the match also didnt necessarily do much to elevate the US belt, which I fear may begin fading into obscurity unless Juice can bring some life back to it in this 2nd reign. After all, Juice lost it on his first attempt, followed by Cody doing the same. Juice needs to string together a run of defenses and raise the prestige of the thing, and stat.
IWGP World Junior Heavyweight Championship
TAIJI ISHIMORI vs KUSHIDA (c)
We get some Back to the Future shtick for KUSHIDA’s entrance feature Taguchi as Doc Brown and a kid in a KUSHIDA mask coming out first before being… “time split”, I guess?… into fully grown KUSHIDA. Haha.
We get the bell and they start by feeling each other out. They lock up, KUSHIDA with wrist control, quick reversal by Taiji but KUSHIDA with a big kick to the arm. Taiji goes for the eyes, runs the ropes but KUSHIDA lands the cartwheel dropkick. Dropkick to the arm by KUSHIDA, looks for Hoverboard Lock but Taiji drops down and locks in a LeBell Lock. KUSHIDA looks for the ropes but Taiji beautifully rolls him back to center. KUSHIDA fights his way to the ropes and gets his foot on it to break.
Taiji stays on KUSHIDA, but KUSHIDA fires back and they trade shots. Speed by Taiji to evade KUSHIDA and floors him with a springboard press off the top. KUSHIDA fires back, but Taiji gets KUSHIDA on the middle rope and hits that sliding snap German suplex. Taiji looks for the 450 but KUSHIDA snatches the arm and locks in the cross armbar, then transitions into a LeBell variation of his own.
Transition into a triangle by KUSHIDA, Taiji lifts him up to a firemans but KUSHIDA drops into a Hoverboard attempt. Taiji breaks out and hits the spinning fujiwara, KUSHIDA breaks out but Taiji keeps pressure on. KUSHIDA attempts the springboard elbow, Taiji catches him and looks for the tombstone lungblower, but KUSHIDA uses the ref to reverse and kick Taiji’s arm out again!
Big gamengiri from KUSHIDA, roll through to look for Back to the Future but Taiji reverses into the tombstone lungblower, covers but only gets 2. Taiji lifts up KUSHIDA for Bloody Cross but KUSHIDA looks to reverse it into the Hoverboard Lock, but doesnt quite get it locked. Taiji fights as KUSHIDA rolls him back to center, wrenching the wrist to apply pressure. Taiji rolls KUSHIDA into a firemans carry and lands a Ground Zero-style DVD! Both competitors are down.
Running double knees to a seated KUSHIDA in the corner by Taiji, who looks for Bloody Cross again, but KUSHIDA reverses into Back to the Future! He rolls through and looks for a 2nd one, Taiji reverses but KUSHIDA hits a right hand, runs the ropes but Taiji hits the jumping double stomp to the chest. Taiji looks for Bloody Cross again and hits it hard! Cover to KUSHIDA, the 3 count and Taiji gets the WIN and the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship!
Taiji Ishimori defeats KUSHIDA by pinfall after Bloody Cross to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship for the First Time
JAY’S RATING: 3.5 out of 5
And the title changes keep on coming with a nice showing the junior singles division. This was a short but smart match for both competitors to show what they are good at, though this could have had a TON more storytelling in it if they were given more time. But since they didnt, they went out to execute, and thats exactly what they did. One wish they could have made happen in the time given was to have Taiji be a bit more dominant in the late stretch, putting a firm exclamation point on the victory as I feel like with Takahashi still recovering KUSHIDA needs a consistent top-shelf challenger for the title, and while Taiji can certainly be that I dont know that I saw it here. Taiji needs an extra edge right now and the division needs a dominant heel – a couple of tweaks and he can be there. In the meantime, as an athletic and action showcase this was fun and fast and gave us some more title drama. Nicely done.
Special Singles Match
JAY WHITE vs KAZUCHIKA OKADA
HUGE CROWD RESPONSE for Okada, who goes back to an older version of his music and his old trunks. Jay White goes outside to start, Okada follows him out but Jay suckers him back in and lays boots in. Okada keeps the fight on, kick counters from both, snapmare from Okada followed by the running dropkick. Gedo tries to trip Okada, Jay capitalizes and takes down Okada, then dumps him with a Saito suplex over the top rope to the floor.
Jay sends Okada into the barricade, breaks the count and then send him into the barricade, then the ring apron, back and forth working over Okada’s back. Okada gets sent back in by Jay, who hits a big running Euro in the corner and a snap Saito suplex, covers but Okada is out at 2. Cravate by Jay keeps Okada grounded, transitions to a cover but only gets 2 before applying the cravate again.
Okada fights back, shots to Jay but Jay just slaps Okada and laughs. Jay baits Okada in and slaps him again, snapmare but Okada answers with a slap of his own. Okada stays on Jay and slaps him again, runs the ropes and takes Jay down hard with a big running elbow. Running elbow in the corner by Okada followed by a DDT, cover but only 2. Don Callis compares Okada’s core moveset to vintage Bret Hart, which feels spot on.
Okada stays on Jay in the corner, but the ref backs him off allowing Jay to fight back, but Okada sits Jay up top and hits the standing dropkick sending Jay to the floor. Okada whips Jay to the barricade and send Jay over, and Gedo tries to get a shot in on Okada’s back. Okada turns around and sends Gedo over the barricade as well, gets some distance and takes them both down with a running flying crossbody over the barricade. Nice.
The ref starts to count as Okada brings Jay back to the ring. Okada with a slam to Jay and goes to climb, and lands a picture perfect elbow drop on Jay before striking the Rainmaker pose! Okada looks for it but Jay fights it off and hits a snap flatliner transitioning into the deadlift German suplex (which is a GREAT combo for Jay). Jay with a huge uranage, covers but only gets 2. Jay looks for Blade Runner but Okada fights out, Jay stays on him and hits a thudding short clothesline.
Jay singals to Gedo, who puts a chair on the apron before distracting the ref, Jay gets the chair but Okada evades and sends Jay into Gedo before flooring Jay with his gorgeous dropkick. Rainmaker attempt but Jay hits a SICK suplex dropping Okada right on his head. Jay with the Kiwi Crusher, covers but Okada out at 2. Blade Runner attempt gets countered again as Okada snatches Jay up and hits a tombstone piledriver. “Okada” chants.
Okada with a boot to Jay, Jay fires back. Jay with quick shots and evades another dropkick, looks for Blade Runner, Okada reverses and hits another dropkick. Okada fires up and calls for Rainmaker, Jay counters again and looks for another head and arm suplex, counter, Jay looks for Blade Runner again, counter after counter after counter until Jay turns around into a short lariat from Okada! Another Rainmaker attempt but Jay literally catches him coming in with Blade Runner, covers Okada immediately and gets the 3 count and clean WIN!
Jay White defeats Kazuchika Okada by pinfall after Blade Runner
JAY’S RATING: 4 out of 5
I am so so happy with this call. Okada is a future legend. Hell, he’s a current legend. And he’s still young yet. He’s fine. But Jay has been coming more and more comfortably into this Switchblade persona, its electric, the story has been built well over time, and I feel like there is still room for Okada to get revenge as a face down the road. Right now, Jay needs the boost more, and he’s smart enough to know what to do with it. This was the right call on so many levels. This match felt personal, but also raw, another sign that this story is likely not over yet as the rivalry can continue to cook and gain depth as 2019 moves forward, likely with both of them fighting their way into the title picture. The crowd love for Okada was intense, which made Jay going over that much more satisfying to me from a story standpoint. And while Gedo had his moments of involvement, at the end of the day Jay won cleanly after Blade Runner, adding further legitimacy to his rise in another strong story choice. Okada was still too angry, and Jay was able to take advantage and sneak in the closing blow when Okada was confident he had the match won. Great stuff there. Keep watching Jay White – we’ve only scratched the surface, I think.
No Disqualification: IWGP Intercontinental Championship
TETSUYA NAITO vs CHRIS JERICHO (c)
Naito attacks Jericho from behind before the bell, and they brawl at ringside. Naito chokes Jericho with the scarf and sends Jericho face first into one of the announce tables, as we finally get the bell for this No DQ match. They had up the ramp with Naito still in control, he sets Jericho up for a piledriver on the ramp and gets it HARD. Shit, Jericho’s still got it. Naito stays on Jericho and finally tosses him back in the ring before taking down the corner ring pad and beating Jericho with it.
Jericho fights back but Naito hits a running rana, then paintbrushes Jericho with his foot. Naito sends Jericho to the floor again, runs the ropes and looks for tranquilo and a suicide dive but Jericho catches him coming with a kendo stick in the face! Jericho brings the kendo stick into the ring and lays in shots. Choke with the kendo stick by Jericho, who then stomps Naito. Naito fires back but gets dumped on the apron and smashed with the kendo stick again, then eats the triangle dropkick from Jericho.
Jericho grabs a camera and flicks off Naito, then puts the boots to him. Snap suplex on the floor by Jericho. Jericho with knees to the kidneys of Naito, smashing him into the announce tables. They stand on the tables, and Jericho plants Naito with a spike DDT, standing Naito flat on his head on the table! GREAT sell from Naito. Jericho just tosses Naito over the tables and over the barricades to ringside, and then rings the bell. Loud boos from the crowd toward Jericho.
Jericho rolls Naito back in and climbs to the top, and hits a GREAT crossbody and covers but only gets 2. Jericho is Timeless. Naito tries to fire back again but eats an elbow and the Lionsault, Jericho hooks the leg but only gets 2. Back suplex from Jericho, classic Jericho cocky pin. Jericho paintbrushes Naito, slowing down the action and jawing with the crowd but still totally dropped in. Slaps to Naito, Naito fights back again and hits the flying forearm to take out Jericho.
Naito stays fired up, back elbow and running dropkick to Jericho. Jericho in the corner tries to fight of Naito who just absorbs the shots to show dominance, before taking down Jericho and getting a nearfall. Naito ground Jericho and spits on him, throwing up the LIJ salute. Naito looks for the corner dropkick combo but Jericho catches him and turns him over into the Walls of Jericho! Crowd chanting for Naito. Naito fights out of it but Jericho lands a big enziguri, looks for Codebreaker but Naito gets the swinging tornado DDT instead.
Naito takes Jericho down with Gloria, covers but only gets 2. Destino is attempted but Jericho takes Naito over and locks in the Walls of Jericho again. Naito struggles to the ropes but Jericho pulls him back to center. Naito wriggles again and grabs the kendo stick and starts beating Jericho with it to break the submission. Naito keeps the stick and begins working over Jericho with it, hitting a hard baseball swing into Jericho’s midsection! OUCH. Naito lines up Jericho and looks to swing again but Jericho counters into a Codebreaker, covers but Naito out at 2!
Jericho throws down the kendo stick and goes under the ring, tossing multiple chairs inside. A whole load of chairs. Jericho lines up Naito and nails him with the chair to the midsection and back, stacks some chairs up and looks for the powerbomb but Naito reverses it into a DDT onto the chairs! Naito clears the mat and hits a Codebreaker of his own on Jericho! Cover, but only gets a 2 count. “Naito” chants.
Naito with the kendo stick climbs to the middle rope but Jericho throws a chair into his face. Jericho looks to suplex Naito out of the corner but Naito goes behind and German suplexes Jericho into the chairs! Naito looks for Destino but pushes the ref, kicks Naito low and gets a Codebreaker! Cover by Jericho but Naito kicks out at 2 as the crowd pops!
Jericho with another chair, drops it and goes back outside and gets the IC title belt. Jericho asks if Naito wants to be champ and lines him up, but Naito counters by dumping Jericho into the exposed metal turnbuckle! Naito comes in running with Destino, lands it and covers Jericho, but Jericho kicks out at 2! Naito picks up the IC title belt and lines up Jericho, and plants it into Jericho’s forehead! Naito hits another Destino, covers and gets the 3 count and the WIN as we have ANOTHER new champion!
Tetsuya Naito defeats Chris Jericho by pinfall after Destino to win the IWGP IC Championship for the 3rd Time
JAY’S RATING: 4.25 out of 5
This was everything I was hoping this match to be and more, and more than deserving of its place on the card. The crowd wanted Naito to take the belt home so badly, both last year and this year, and this delivered what they wanted big time given the crowd reaction. Jericho and Naito were both locked in with each other, fighting a hard-hitting No DQ match that didnt overuse the gimmick but also took full advantage of it. When it slowed, they didnt let the moments dropped. When it fired up, they made it count. They used the nearfalls well in the closing stretch, and it really felt like Jericho might retain. Jericho is still at the top of his game, he’s so freaking good its ridiculous, and Naito is well on his way toward being one of New Japan’s greatest of all time, which you can particularly see here in a match you can tell he cared deeply about. This felt like a great journey of a match and a great way to move Jericho on to whatever Jericho wants to do next (I adore him) and give Naito some renewed direction in the immediate. Loved it. Love it.
IWGP World Heavyweight Championship
HIROSHI TANAHASHI vs KENNY OMEGA (c)
New music and 8-bit video game entrance video for Omega. This music feels much more in line with Best Bout Machine Omega, for sure. The bell rings and the crowd is already on fire. Slow lock up at the start, feeling each other out and they separate. Back together, and Tana slaps Omega. Hard lock up, Tana backed to the ropes but Omega legs him go with a light slap, which Tana returns hard. Omega fires up with shots, sends Tana in the corner but Tana counters, Omega recounters looking for One Winged Angel but Tana drops behind into a Cobra Twist. Omega tosses Tana off but Tana catches a rollup for a quick 2.
Tana gets Omega’s legs and works over a knee, grounded Omega. They trade slaps while Tana maintains a knee hold, Omega crawls back and gets the ropes to break. Tana stays on the knee, taking out Omega’s base. Omega fires back, shots traded and Omega lays a big knee into the gut of Tana and hits a Muta-style elbow drop, a statement to Tana and his “philosophy” of pro wrestling that is part of the story of this match.
Omega with stomps and strikes, then chokes Tana with his boot in the corner. Backbreaker from Omega, cover but Tana is out at 2. Omega stays on Tana as commentary discusses how when Tana arrived in his match years ago here against Mutoh, there were empty seats, and that Tana and his approach pulled New Japan out of some dark times, driving this ideological divide with Omega. Omega lays forearms shivers and shots into Tana’s back, and continues kicking away at a grounded Tana.
Omega gets in Tana’s face and talks shit before hitting a big back suplex, and Tana rolls to the outside. Back suplex on the apron by Omega to Tana. Omega keeps the pressure on at ringside but Tana catches Omega running with a dropkick to change the momentum. Omega gets control back though, driving Tana into the apron and then slamming him over the barricade onto the announce table, and following with a springboard moonsault off the barricade to wipe out Tana.
The table comes out as Omega goes under the ring and set one up at ringside. Tana back up and over the barricade to intercept, looks to send Omega into the table but only teases it before sending Omega back inside, making a point about style. They trade shots, with Omega landing some big chops. Tana answers with a running forearm taking down Omega. Omega fights back but Tana lands the Dragon Screw and a running dropkick that sends Omega into the corner.
Tana climbs to the middle rope and hits the somersault senton, covers but only gets 2. Tana looks for Sling Blade but walks into a chop by Omega, who follows with the Kotaro Krusher. We get the Rise of the Terminator, but Tana cuts it off before Omega can get momentum. Tana comes running but Omega gets a snap rana sending Tana back outside, Omega hits the pose again, runs the ropes and lands a HUGE tope con hilo, with Omega landing with a THUD on the ramp.
Both competitors are down on the ramp as the ref begins the count. Omega throws Tana back in and climbs the corner, and nails a big missile dropkick to the back of Tana. Snap Dragon Suplex on Tana, Tana comes in but Omega catches another one. Tana rises again and eats a big V-Trigger from Omega, which crumples Tana. Omega looks for One Winged Angel, Tana counters but Omega re-counters into You Cant Escape, but Omega sells a tweaked knee on the pop up. Tana gets behind Omega and hits a big Dragon Screw on the bad knee out of the corner!
Tana back in control, picks up Omega and hits Twist and Shout. He takes Omega’s legs and locks in the high angle Cloverleaf, sitting down while wrenching back high. Omega crawls, but Tana sinks it deep. Omega fights out but Tana looks for a Styles Clash, and pancakes him down! Tana climbs, looks for High Fly Flow but Omega gets the knees up at the last second! Both are slow to recover. Omega looks for a V-Trigger in the corner but Tana moves and Omega’s knee hits hard and Omega goes to the apron. Tana pulls his leg through and hits a draped Dragon Screw over the middle rope.
Tana moves to the apron, runs at Omega and hits a Sling Blade that drops Omega flat on the apron! Tana then places Omega on the table and climbs to the top, the crowd is conflicted, Tana comes off the top with High Fly Flow but Omega moves and Tana crashes and burns through the table! Great story moment, with Tana attempting “Omega’s philosophy” and having it backfire.
Omega thinks about taking the countout win, but picks up Tana and puts him back in the ring. Shots to Tana draped over the middle rope, Omega climbs and hits a beautiful double stomp to the back on Tana. Omega positions Tana for a powerbomb and folds him up with one, covers but only gets 2. A second powerbomb from Omega, another cover and another 2, with Omega deadlifting Tana into a third one which he sits out of, covers again but still only gets 2.
Omega chokes Tana until the ref breaks it up, as both competitors are getting frustrated. V-Trigger is attempted but Tana catches Omega coming with a Sling Blade. They trade shots, with both Tana and Omega wobbly. Tana favors the ribs, Omega favors the knee. Crowd is fired up with each shot and chop. Omega seems to gain the strike advantage, Tana seems glassy but then fires back fresh, staggering Omega. Omega goes desperate with knees to the ribs, gets a waistlock and deadlift release German. But Tana is back up (FIGHTING SPIRIT!), Omega stays on him and takes him down with his own Sling Blade.
Omega now hops over the top rope and climbs, and lands his own High Fly Flow, BUT TANA KICKS OUT AT 1! Tana is back on his feet but wobbly, and Omega lands a huge V-Trigger. Both competitors are on their knees, Omega up first but Tana slaps him. Another knee from Omega, a Kamigoye style one to Tana on his knees, but Tana catches the next one and takes out Omega’s knee. Tana looks to run but Omega gets the reverse rana, lines up Tana and hits another V-Trigger in the ropes.
Omega looks for the finish but Tana fights back, Omega tries again but Tana gets a reverse rana of his own on Omega! The crowd is on fire. Tana goes behind Omega and lands a great bridging Dragon Suplex, covers but only gets 2. Tana is fired up and looks to fly, hits the standing High Fly Flow on Omega, climbs again and lands the High Fly Flow! Cover on Omega, but OMEGA KICKS OUT AT 2!
Tana climbs again, but Omega comes in hard to cut him off with a V-Trigger. Omega sits Tana backwards on the top, climbs behind him and looks for an Avalanche Dragon Suplex, and HITS IT with Tana landing face first on the mat! Omega is standing and lines up another V-Trigger, Tana is wide open against the bottom rope and he eats the knee fully. Omega hoists Tana up for One Winged Angel but Tana gets an ugly but effective counter out of it, and follows with another Sling Blade! Tana climbs again, hits another High Fly Flow and covers Omega, 1, 2, 3 and Tanahashi WINS to become IWGP Heavyweight Champion for the 8th Time!
Hiroshi Tanahashi defeats Kenny Omega by pinfall after High Fly Flow to win the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship for the 8th Time
JAY’S RATING: 4.5 out of 5
So, I’m going to put my personal feelings aside here, as I do feel like the Omega retaining choice had some more interesting potential future main events lined up for me. However, holy crap that was a main event. This is what a main event of the biggest card of the year should feel like. Two people, undisputed main eventers, true legends, with a personal story between them, going head to head over the most prized possession they can attain. This is Rock/Austin. This is Hart/Michaels. This is Charlotte/Sasha. This was a beautifully built match that showed exactly why these are two of the absolute best in the world today at what they do, and used a story based around a clash of philosophies to create a dynamic match between those two respective styles. Omega losing gives me more questions regarding his future and AEW, though I dont think Omega would leave New Japan given the investment they have put into him and his clear top guy status in the company regardless of belt. New Year’s Dash will be interesting there. But as far as giving us a clear reminder of why Tanahashi is the John Cena of New Japan, this match was it. He stayed true to himself, but evolved his move set, stretched himself, and proved that he still deserves the top spot in this company. I will always question a bit of, do we need an 8th Tanahashi reign, only because I feel like with Naito, Jay White, Kota Ibushi, SANADA and others we are ready for a more complete evolution of the top shelf. But at the same time, the Cena’s can serve a great purpose when used well, as Jericho has shown over and over again. And I just cant question his performance here. Riveting work from both Omega and Tanahashi, and I’m very curious to see where Omega moves from here.
WrestleKingdom 13 was in my opinion a genuine success as NJPW’s flagship show. There were a couple matches that definitely felt a little short-changed and/or rushed, but at the end of the day, you had Ibushi/Ospreay, the Tag Title match, White/Okada, Jericho/Naito and the main event anchoring the show with some truly stellar matchups, with solid showings from ZSJ/Ishii and Ishimori/KUSHIDA as well. The title landscape is now COMPLETELY different, with LIJ picking up some big straps. White and Okada continues to be the most fully intriguing story to me at the moment, and I’m hopeful for some exciting new developments there tomorrow at New Year’s Dash. And Tanahashi being back at the top of the mountain will be interesting to watch, as I hope we dont get too much rehashing of the main event picture when we have some new names ready to take the spotlight in 2019. My big concern is Kota Ibushi, as I still cannot tell if its worked or not, and he really did look a little extra knocked silly. Sending thoughts his way on the chance that he is legitimately hurt. All in all, looking at the event in and of itself, I find myself leaving MORE than satisfied. My only core disagreement is having EVERY title change, as it starts to feel a little EXTRA contrived to me, but save that I feel like this card could be studied as far as how to craft and book a Biggest-Show-Of-The-Year. Smart core decision-making led to this being a truly great show with lots of great stuff to choose from. Make time for WrestleKingdom 13.
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