Change remained the name of the game as the road to WrestleKingdom took a diversion – with a three-way title defence for Kenny Omega in the main event.
Coming from Sumo Hall in Tokyo, we also had the tease of who the new member of Los Ingobernables de Japon would be, with the new member being a permanent addition to the group. We watched the first few matches in Germany before heading home from World Tag Team League – we’ll not recap them all in too much detail because of how New Japan undercards tend to be. Kevin Kelly, Rocky Romero and Chris Charlton are back on the English call – or the “A-team” as some have dubbed them.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask vs. Suzuki-gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado) (c)
We started out hot as Suzuki-gun attacked Liger and Tiger in the aisle, going after their masks as this threatened to be your common-or-garden Suzuki-gun brawl.
They return to the ring as Desperado tried to get a win out of a simple slam, as the champions looked to avenge their shock loss that led to this title match. Desperado and Tiger go after each other’s masks, which has been the common theme of this feud, but Liger managed to turn it around with a Shotei and a top rope ‘rana on Kanemaru, before he went for a Fujiwara armbar. Tiger Mask’s back with a swandive headbutt after Kanemaru had taken a powerbomb, but it’s only enough for a near-fall, and the champions are back in to turn it around, with Despy’s suplex and spear getting a near-fall. A Tiger Driver’s much the same vein, before Desperado again goes for the mask and earns himself a butterfly superplex, forcing Kanemaru to throw in a bottle of whiskey to distract the referee.
Of course, Kanemaru’d already had a swig, which he uses to blind Tiger Mask. More shenanigans give us a ref bump, while Liger takes Kanemaru outside for a cannonball off the apron. A Tiger suplex should have given us new champions, but the ref’s down – and with Desperado hitting a pop-up foul on Tiger Mask, the ref’s back to count Pinche Loco for the win. A decent start, with a hot beginning only for it to peter out at the end. **¾
Juice Robinson & Toa Henare vs. Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma
Fresh from losing the US title, Juice Robinson’s changed up his look… but this is another World Tag League warm-up in all honest. The Japanese one that can drag a little, not the German one that feels too short at three days long.
After an initial flurry Honma misses a Kokeshi… because of course he does. That allows Henare to drag him into the opposite corner as Juice flies in with an axehandle off the top… but Henare’s quickly back, and gets suplexed for his troubles. Juice and Makabe tag in, but the veteran’s all over the recently-deposed champion. Juice manages to hit back hard, crashing into Makabe with a cannonball before a full nelson slam nearly gets the upset. Some Dusty punches end with a lariat from Makabe as Honma returns to chop through Juice ahead of a Kokeshi that actually connects! Chops followed as Juice tries to make a dent, only to get dropped with a clothesline for a near-fall… as Henare tries to make a save, only to get thrown out.
Honma heads up top, only to get crotched and press slammed down by Juice, who then brings Henare back in. We’ve a big lariat from Henare that nearly puts away Honma… who manages to respond with a leaping Kokeshi, before Makabe returned for the finishing stretch. There’s a shoulder tackle from Henare, who was looking for the upset, but in the end Makabe shrugs off lariats and clonks the Kiwi with one of his own… for a one count?! The end’s near though as a slam, a Kokeshi and the King Kong knee drop puts Henare away – a rather straightforward outing and not one that instills confidence in any Juice bouncing back quickly! **½
Bullet Club Elite (Chase Owens, Hangman Page & Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson)) vs. Bullet Club OG (Bad Luck Fale, Taiji Ishimori, & Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa))
A random Elite vs. OG tag match? On the undercard? I smell a rat…
Tanga Loa and Chase Owens get us going, with Chase looking for an early package piledriver as Tanga slinks away for a tag. Swapping places, it’s Taiji Ishimori and Nick Jackson, with the Bone Soldier out-pacing the Young Buck en route to the cliched double dropkick stand-off as the ring fills up with some shoving and arguments. Eventually dropkicks clear the ring as the Elite stood tall, but we were already getting telltale signs as Matt Jackson’s jack was causing issues. They brawl outside, as Nick hits a flip senton to the pile on the floor, while Matt looked to take flight, only for Tanga Loa to trip and slam him on the floor.
More brawling around ringside keeps the OGs on top, as commentary tries to have us believe that Tama Tonga is one of the top 5 New Japan search results. Someone less kind than me would joke the words “has been fired yet” ought to be in those results… the OGs remove Matt’s athletic tape and stand on his back in unison, as the obvious target was obvious. Matt throws a spear out of desperation as he gets the tag out… but Ishimori’s back in as Hangman Page comes in too. Page boots away a leapfrog before forearming Tanga Loa en route to a dropsault combo that caught Ishimori and Tanga at the same time. On the outside, Page scores with another moonsault to the pile on the floor, before Chase Owens came in to quadruple-team Ishimori.
A slingshot backbreaker from Owens almost puts away the Bone Soldier – and earns a sick burn for the old one, as Ishimori hit a handspring forearm before tagging out. Page gets involved with a Buckshot Lariat to start a Parade of Moves, but in the end the Bucks superkick Fale before Ishimori took them out with a single ‘rana, then a corkscrew plancha… Chase nearly nicks a win, rolling up Tama Tonga from a Gun Stun, before a package piledriver’s blocked. Owens takes his eye off the ball, going after Tanga Loa, before getting spiked with an assisted Gun Stun as Tama picked up the win. This was fine – it keeps up the OG’s dominance in the story, but this match was very rough at times. ***
Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto & Will Ospreay vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & Takashi Iizuka)
Guess what? Jump start!
Suzuki and Ishii went straight after each other, building up to their Rev Pro British Heavyweight title match in Brixton this weekend, while Hirooki Goto was left in there with Takashi Iizuka. Hearing Rev Pro and OTT getting shout outs on here is very odd, but in a good way! Everyone gangs up on Taichi for a spell, with Ospreay delivering a killer blow with a running shooting star press as those two looked to build up to a match down the line. The CHAOS dominance swiftly ends with a hanging armbar in the ropes from Suzuki, who then went after Ishii with a chairshot that produces a rather satisfying pop as it struck his back.
Iizuka’s mask comes off, so it’s biting time, with Goto being the unlucky recipient of Iizuka’s incisors, then Ospreay as commentary cracked wise over Tiger Hattori’s age. Suzuki comes in and renews rivalries with Goto, almost taking a backdrop suplex before Goto tags out to give us another taste of Sunday’s main event for Rev Pro. A big boot from Suzuki barely fazes Ishii, as they then light each other up with clonking elbows, before a flying shoulder tackle left both men down.
Ospreay and Taichi tag in, with Will flying all over the place as he’s want to do with a springboard forearm. Another forearm misses as Ospreay crashes into the corner, then takes a kick as Suzuki-gun turn it around, with Ospreay feeling the might of the heavyweights… including some rope choking from Iizuka and an axe bomber from Taichi. Off come Taichi’s trousers, but Ospreay catches a superkick before slipping out of a Last Ride powerbomb. He takes an enziguiri though as the ring again fills, this time giving a distraction as Iizuka teased using the funky oven glove.
Instead, it’s a cover for Taichi’s belt shot… which Ospreay catches and turns into a Spanish fly before a hook kick and a Storm Breaker put down Taichi for the win! Ospreay’s first outing as a pseudo-heavyweight’s successful – and I guess he’s in the driving seat for a NEVER title shot? ***
So, ahead of the next match, we had a mystery man… who’d be the new member of Los Ingobernables de Japon? After everyone in LIJ came out, Naito filled in the ring announcer, who first introduces Milano Collection AT, before correcting himself: the Dragon… Shingo Takagi!
Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, SANADA, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
So, Sumo Hall has a lot of history with LIJ as SANADA and EVIL joined the group here… and of course, the debut of Shingo into the faction just keeps that trend going.
Shingo and YOH start, with a battle of chops and shoulder tackles that demonstrated the debutant’s power. A leapfrog’s caught, but Roppongi 3K double-team Shingo to turn things around, while Toru Yano gets caught in the ropes with a Paradise Lock from SANADA. Yano’s left there as Shingo and SANADA worked over YOH, tying him up in another Paradise Lock next to Yano, before a low dropkick freed two up for the price of one.
YOH looked to turn things around with a Dragon Screw to Naito, then BUSHI, before Okada gets the tag in to clear house. A flapjack from Okada puts down Naito for a two-count, but things turn around as Naito took Okada into the corner for the Cabron Combination (the trip and slingshot corner dropkick) as Okada was really on the back foot here… and just as I say that, he’s in with a dropkick! The pair fight between a Rainmaker and Destino, before tags take us to Roppongi 3K against BUSHI, but BUSHI fights out of the 3K and tags in Shingo. A leaping knee from SHO looked to delay Shingo, but the debutant hits back instantly with a Gory bomb for a near-fall, and after the ring fills up, we’re left with Shingo standing alone as he put away SHO with the Last Falconry (a sit-out death valley driver). Not much of a match, but this very much ticked the box of “debut and spotlight Shingo”. ***¼
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. EVIL
This didn’t get going – EVIL’s entrance to the ring saw him come out on a throne, a la King Mabel. But first, we got a very light “oh, Zack Sabre Jr.” chant in Tokyo… which floored me.
Anyone, one of EVIL’s druids attacked him, throwing him into the guard rails – revealing the IWGP Intercontinental title around his waist. Yep, it was Chris Jericho in another Scooby Doo disguise before he buggered off to do his cruise. Moving on… Sabre tried to make a match out of the fallen EVIL, but he instead got run off by Tetsuya Naito – and it looks like that’s the new direction since EVIL and Jericho are locked down.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Marty Scurll vs. KUSHIDA
After winning their qualifying tournament matches at Fighting Spirit Unleashed and Destruction in Kobe respectively, we’ll be leaving Tokyo with a new junior heavyweight champion after Hiromu Takahashi was forced to vacate the belt due to injury.
Interestingly, whereas Marty Scurll has a near-perfect record over Will Ospreay, whom he beat to get to the final, he’s been unable to beat KUSHIDA. We start with KUSHIDA rolling to easily escape a wristlock as commentary took a diversion to announce that Robbie Eagles was pairing with Taiji Ishimori for the upcoming junior tag tournament. As for the match, Scurll and KUSHIDA roll through on the mat as we have a chain of sunset flips for an eventual two-count from KUSHIDA, before we went outside as KUSHIDA took a nasty superkick off the apron. Scurll keeps up the offence, taking KUSHIDA back inside as he employed a slower, deliberate pace, pulling KUSHIDA into a Romero special right by the ropes.
A DDT from KUSHIDA puts a stop to Marty’s offence, but it’s perhaps too soon to go for a Hoverboard Lock, as Scurll lifts KUSHIDA onto the apron instead. KUSHIDA tried to go up top, but he’s caught and brought down with a superplex… which KUSHIDA countered into a small package on landing as we almost had the match come to a premature end. We’ve more indy’riffic pinning attempts as the pair countered sunset flips back and forth for two-counts, before KUSHIDA started to throw kicks at Scurll’s arm… only for that to lead to another superkick as Scurll ducks and rolled his foe through. The pair exchange some cravat knees between themselves, as we’re still going tit-for-tat, with a rather-too-choreographed-looking “slink to your knees and strike each other” spot.
KUSHIDA’s back with a cartwheel kick to take Scurll to the outside, but Marty leaps back onto the apron and goes after KUSHIDA again… but he’s caught on the top rope in a Hoverboard Lock, with KUSHIDA bringing him down into the Diablo armbar… only for Scurll to escape by slingshotting him into the bottom rope.
A STO into the turnbuckles help KUSHIDA keep things even, as he rolls through into Back to the Future… but Scurll counters that into a chicken wing, which looked to make KUSHIDA fade away pretty quick… only for him to somehow reverse the hold. Scurll has his own trick, reversing into a Hoverboard Lock, before switching it into a chicken wing suplex that dumped KUSHIDA right on his goddamn neck. From there, Scurll looked for the Graduation, but instead KUSHIDA counters into the Air Raid Crash before Marty started to go for the fingers once again. It worked as KUSHIDA couldn’t lock in a Hoverboard lock anymore, which nearly cost him as Scurll looked to roll him up, before a powerbomb drew a near-fall. After kicking out, Scurll goes for the package piledriver-like move, but it’s still not enough, so Scurll goes back to the chicken wing, only for KUSHIDA to roll through into a death valley driver… then into a Back to the Future for the win. Devoid of the “typical junior” flash and flare, this was a really good, back-and-forth grounded match with KUSHIDA and Scurll trading what scant advantage they had until KUSHIDA manages to chain together two death blows to pick up the win. ****
Jay White vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
This was Tanahashi’s last defence of the G1 briefcase before WrestleKingdom 13 – and a near-instant shot at revenge after the events in Kobe. White came out in the red and black, harkening back to Shinsuke Nakamura’s time as leader of CHAOS.
White scurries to the outside at the bell, but Tanahashi doesn’t give chase, instead waiting for White to return as the pair eventually lock up, go into the ropes… and don’t get a clean break after Gedo distracted Tanahashi. The English commentary desk becomes a danger zone again, but Tanahashi manages to take over… only for Gedo to prove another distraction as he was chased into the ring, allowing White to hit a chop block to Tanahashi’s knee, giving the Kiwi an easy target… and one that he swooped on with some gusto as he took Tanahashi into the corner, wrapping the legs around the ring post for good measure.
Gedo keeps on interfering, using the G1 winner’s briefcase on the knee as Rocky Romero breaks out another swear on commentary… but referee Red Shoes Unno refused to count a pin as Jay White tried to take the shortest of shortcuts. It’s back to the knee again as White jars it against his shoulder, but Tanahashi wouldn’t stay down, and eventually whips White to the mat with a Dragon screw.
Tanahashi connects with a slam and a flip senton off the middle rope for a near-fall, before going back to those leg whips, before White kicked away the knee again as he fought out of a Cloverleaf attempt. A back body drop lifts Tanahashi down to the outside, but he’s back with another Dragon screw as White threatened to use a chair… and with Jay on the floor, Tanahashi heads up top and… High Fly Flow to the floor! Back in the ring, Tanahashi runs through some chops as White eventually struck with a German suplex, as the pair began to trade shots… until White grabbed a handful of hair, only to get swatted away. Tanahashi’s bid for a Slingblade’s nearly countered into a Blade Runner, as we counter, counter and counter into more elbow strikes and finally, Twist and Shout from Tanahashi! Another one follows, before White hit back with a spin-out suplex as both men were left down on the mat.
Tanahashi’s back up as he worked into a Slingblade before decking Gedo… then counters a Blade Runner before nearly snatching a win with a Dragon suplex! We’re up top again for a High Fly Flow crossbody, then the frog splash… but Gedo pulls out the referee at the count of two as we’re firmly into your Westernised Bollocks Tropes. The camera shows Gedo’s got some brass knuckles on, but Tanahashi ducks the shot, only to take a low blow as White’s gotten the chair back… but his shot’s stopped as Tanahashi dished out a low blow of his own! Tanahashi keeps using the chair, slamming White onto hit ahead of one more High Fly Flow, but White rolls away as Tanahashi crashes into the furniture! White throws the chair at Tanahashi again as he screams for Gedo to roll in the referee, but White’s own arrogance costs him as he pulls up Tanahashi for a Blade Runner, only to be cradled as the Ace took home the win! This was streets ahead of their WrestleKingdom outing, even with some of the Western Bollocks that was deployed here. ****¼
Post-match, White stomps down Tanahashi – and all the Young Lions who looked to make the save… in the end, it was Kazuchika Okada who ran down for the unlikely save! White tries to cheapshot Okada, but that’s overcome as Gedo finally got his… which led to the appearance of Jado, in an Okada shirt, to save his brother. The Bullet Club OG wandered down to ringside just to confuse matters further.
The OGs hit the ring and take aim at Okada… but instead they held Gedo and Jado, asking Okada to decide whom to take out. THAT was the ruse though, as Okada looked to run into Gedo, only to get intercepted with a Gun Stun from Tama Tonga, and with Gedo, Jado and Jay White joining in the beatdown, it looks like the excommunicated members of CHAOS are now part of the OGs.
On paper, that kinda makes sense – remember, Jay White turned down Kenny Omega’s offer to join Bullet Club at the start of the year; but as to whether this addition does anything for the wider Bullet Club story remains to be seen. From a distance, it sure does look like nWo Hollywood vs. Wolfpack… After all that, Tanahashi stood over the fallen Okada, but opted not to help him up, instead going to the back as other Young Lions helped up Okada. Even with a common enemy, Okada and Tanahashi aren’t united. Yet.
IWGP Championship: Kota Ibushi vs. Cody vs. Kenny Omega
“Why is this a three-way?”, some cried. Well, I’m not a fan of them at the best of times, but if rumours are to be believed, this was more of a delaying tactic for the obvious match-up here, rather than “Cody deserves a shot”. Especially since that mechanic doesn’t seem to play into the Bullet Club story at all.
So anyway, this one sailed over the half-hour mark as King of Pro Wrestling had a suitably epic main event, fitting the title of the “first IWGP championship three-way on Japanese soil”.
After all three exchanged hugs at the start, the action began as we started with the revolving door stuff – get one man out so the other two can continue unopposed. An early dropkick from Ibushi took Cody to the outside, but Kenny slides in to stop a Golden Triangle moonsault… only for Cody to put the boots to them again as Omega and Ibushi went through a spell of stealing each other’s pins.
They head outside, where Ibushi took a front suplex onto the floor by Cody, who came back with a back body drop that lifted Kota over the railings, depositing him by the English commentary desks, meaning that we had Cody and Kenny for a while in the ring as Ibushi recovered. A springboard into the ring from Cody just earns him a ‘rana from Omega, taking him outside for a Terminator tope con giro that almost saw Kenny crack his heels on the guard railings on landing!
Ibushi manages to roll back into the ring, as he played his role in the Golden Lovers’ usual finisher before he had to wriggle out of a One Winged Angel as Kenny became all apologetic about things. A scoop slam and a springboard moonsault from Ibushi nearly puts Cody away, prompting the new US champion to fight back, trying to enlist Kenny to join “his side” of the fight. A double-team suplex from Cody’s switched in mid-air as Cody tries to roll up Omega and finish off the suplex at the same time – and it nearly worked too! Cody followed up with a Figure Four, but Omega tries to punch his way free, only for Kota to throw some boots to his tag team partner. There’s a PK for Cody, before a standing moonsault puts down Omega for a near-fall as we got some nice twists to the usual three-way formula here. After that, we got a flurry of offence as Omega dumped Ibushi with the Aoi Shoudou, before ducking a Disaster Kick and eventually catching Cody with a snap Dragon suplex. Ibushi springs in with missile dropkicks to stop a V-trigger, but Cody hits one too before a hammerlock DDT spiked Ibushi for another two-count.
Ibushi tried to strike back with a Golden Triangle, but Cody stops him instead, looking for Cross Rhodes off the apron, only for Omega to catch him with a powerbomb through the English commentary table instead. As Kenny surveyed his work, Kota hits a Sasuke special to Omega as we’ve a trio of bodies laid out on the floor. Cody’s left in the crowd as Ibushi turns his sights to Omega, but he can’t springboard back in… he instead enters the ring normally and invites Omega to settle things, locking up before they traded elbows, then boots before Omega caught Kota with a snap Dragon suplex. A Kotaro Krusher’s avoided, but Omega’s able to land a V-Trigger… only for Ibushi to cartwheel out of a reverse ‘rana and land a lariat as he matched his tag partner move for move.
With Omega still down, Kota looked to go up for a Phoenix Splash, but Cody pops up and shoves him down, before returning to the ring to score a Canadian Destroyer off the middle rope for a near-fall on Omega. Cody looks for Dins Fire, but Omega rolls out and takes Cody into the corner for a V-Trigger, before taking Cody up for an avalanche Dragon suplex… except it’s Ibushi who returns to the fray now and tries to pull off the move. Kenny and Kota swap around, forcibly, until Omega powerbombed Ibushi into Cody in the corner, putting Cody in a Tree of Woe and helpless as a death valley driver spiked Ibushi for a near-fall. A One Winged Angel looked to follow, but Ibushi gets out and lawn-darts Omega into the still-cornered Cody.
We’ve got a sunset flip-assisted German suplex off the ropes – that just about comes off – as Ibushi suplexed Cody off the middle rope, leaving both of them in the ropes as Omega unleashes some V-Triggers, before Cody and Kota combine for an assisted German suplex! Cody heads outside for plunder, eventually finding a table under the ring… and it’s quickly used as Omega’s springboard is shoved away, sending him backwards through the table. That looked to leave Ibushi and Cody left… and Cody almost nicks it when he cradles Ibushi from a superplex, but that wasn’t about to get him his second title in a week.
Ibushi fires back with a sit-out powerbomb for a near-fall, before a strait-jacket German suplex barely gets a one-count, as Ibushi nails Cody with Kamigoye for a two-count, thanks to Kenny grabbing the referee’s arm to stop the count. Omega’s trying to apologise to Ibushi, while simultaneously telling him to “know your place”… which led to Ibushi laying into his tag team partner with a barrage of palm strikes. Cody gets one too, before Ibushi drops Omega with a kick to the chest as the pair went to ground. Kota’s throwing punches as Omega’s forced to cover up, as we cross that half hour mark, but out of nowhere we get a Bomaye knee that almost crowned a new champion. Cody prevents a Kamigoye then rushes in to dump Omega with Cross Rhodes… only for a double stomp from Ibushi to land straight on Omega’s midsection. Another Cross Rhodes dumps Omega awkwardly, but Kenny gets a shoulder up just in time, while Ibushi returns… and gets taken out with Dins Fire. Omega’s barely awake enough to pull away Cody’s cover, which prompts the US champion to head outside for a chair… which he throws down as he instead goes for his own title belt.
It’s a ruse though as Cody throws down the belt and goes for the chair as Omega covered up Ibushi, who then saved Kenny from a chairshot. A kick to the head knocks Cody onto the apron, before Ibushi ate a reverse ‘rana and a Jay Driller for a near-fall… with no Cody to make a save, we’ve a V-Trigger, then a One Winged Angel, as the conflicted Omega retained his title, despite Cody’s despairing dive. As a match, this was fine, but it says a lot about Kenny Omega’s output this year that this felt like a disappointment. Going into this as not really a fan of three-ways, this didn’t do much to dissuade my viewpoint, but at least the “one out, two-in” stuff wasn’t overdone – while the match looked to sow some seeds of doubt between the Golden Lovers for down the line. ****
An improvement on the Fighting Spirit Unleashed show, King of Pro Wrestling was a show that delivered – and continued to keep the wheels turning on the long road to WrestleKingdom. The defection of Jay White, Gedo and Jedo to the Bullet Club OG raises some eyebrows, but it’ll be interesting to see if – and how – that mechanic plays out in the coming months, and whether there’ll be any more departures from CHAOS…