The first King of Pro Wrestling of 2023 was decided as life after Wrestle Kingdom began with a New Year Dash!!

Quick Results
EVIL, Dick Togo & Yujiro Takahashi pinned Tomoaki Honma, Tiger Mask & Ren Narita in 8:29 (**¼)
DOUKI, Yoshinobu Kanemari & Taichi pinned Francesco Akira, TJP & Will Ospreay in 9:17 (***¼)
Mikey Nicholls, Shane Haste & Zack Sabre Jr. pinned YOSHI-HASHI, Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii in 8:01 (***)
YOH, Togi Makabe, Ryusuke Taguchi & Shota Umino pinned Hiromu Takahashi, Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & BUSHI in 13:33 (***¼)
Tama Tonga, Hikuleo, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Master Wato defeated El Phantasmo, Jay White, KENTA & Taiji Ishimori via disqualification in 11:37 (***)
Shingo Takagi pinned Toru Yano, SHO & Great O-Khan in 12:50 to win the Provisional KOPW 2023 Championship (***)
Kazuchika Okada & Kenny Omega pinned Aaron Henare & Jeff Cobb in 13:36 (***½)

After a few years off, New Year Dash!! returns – the mystery show that takes place the day after Wrestle Kingdom. We’re coming from the Ota City General Gymnasium in Tokyo… which isn’t using the new rules on cheering, so unfortunately it’s back to claps.

English commentary comes from the alliteration alliance of Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton and Gino Gambino.

Ren Narita, Tomoaki Honma & Tiger Mask vs. House of Torture (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi & Dick Togo)
Of course we’ve got a jump start, with the House of Torture targeting Tiger Mask early, before the veteran dumped Dick with a tiltawhirl backbreaker.

Things spill outside with Tiger Mask and Ren Narita taking the guard rails, before Dick tried to remove Tiger’s mask. EVIL’s in to choke Tiger Mask with a towel, before Dick pulled off the mask a little. Yujiro’s in for a snapmare and a low kick to get him a two-count, before a Tiger Driver bought Tiger Mask some time.

Ren Narita tags in and clears house, charging into Yujiro in the corner ahead of a half-hatch suplex for a two-count, then a cross armbar that forced Yujiro to scramble into the ropes. Yujiro bites his way out of a Cobra twist, then raked Ren’s eyes ahead of another low kick as EVIL tagged in… but Ren avoids the trap and booted everyone away.

Honma’s in next, but he misses a Kokeshi on EVIL as the House of Torture swarmed the ring… EVIL tries for Everything is EVIL, but Honma escapes and landed a leaping Kokeshi… then a regular one for a two-count. Another headbutt from Honma sinks EVIL, before Dick Togo ran in with the garotte wire to distract. The referee misses Yujiro drilling Honma with the pimp cane, before a Magic Killer put Honma away. Pretty much what you’d expect with this line-up… **¼

Post-match, the House of Torture attack Ren Narita, only for Minoru Suzuki of all people to come out – and his swanky hat – to make the save. Togo strangles Suzuki, before El Desperado made the save, holding EVIL in place as it seems Suzuki and Desperado want Narita for a new unit?!

Just Four Guys (Taichi, DOUKI & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. United Empire (Will Ospreay, TJP & Francesco Akira)
TAKA Michinoku accompanied Taichi, as I guess the former Suzuki-gun lads didn’t want to stray too far apart here? TAKA addressed the crowd and said the crowd will see big changes, and I guess they’re calling the group Just Four Guys? With only three working tonight…

Ospreay’s appearance drew gasps, considering the condition he was in – and his threat of sorts after Wrestle Kingdom that he’d give himself a year to be where he wants to be…

TJP and Kanemaru start by going to ground, before a blind tag brought in Akira as the United Empire swarmed the ring. Cue trips to the guard rails for half of Just Four Guys, before things returned to the ring with TJP tagging back in to propel Akira off his shoulders into a back senton on Kanemaru. Sick something tag moves, they called that back in my day…

Kanemaru’s tied up by TJP, then taken to the corner for a face-washing boot before Ospreay tagged in and ran Kanemaru into the corner. Rapid-fire elbows sink Kanemaru as Taichi came in and got slapped by Ospreay… whose powerbomb on Kanemaru was escaped as an enziguiri stunned the former US champion. Taichi’s in for some Kawada-ish kicks, then a kick to the back of Ospreay, who then ate an enziguiri before Akira came in and got throttled into the corner.

There’s more throttling for TJP as Ospreay ended up eating a thrust kick as he tried to take advantage. An Axe Bomber from Taichi lands, but he can’t make the cover as tags bring in DOUKI and Akira, with the latter taking a tijeras and a springboard body attack. A swinging Northern Lights suplex nearly won it for DOUKI, who then took a stomp as Akira wheelbarrowed out of a Suplex de la Luna.

A trio of kicks sandwich DOUKI in the corner ahead of a crossbody for a two-count, before Kanemaru stopped Akira from going for a Leaning Tower. Instead, Akira goes for the Speedfire, but DOUKI countered with a Skayde Special… and that’s enough for the win as it looks like Kanemaru and DOUKI are next up for the junior tag champions. ***¼

Post-match, the Empire attack again, before Ospreay booted TAKA Michinoku in the balls. Ospreay mouths off to Taichi, who tries to choke him… and that flares things up again as all of the Young Lions were needed to try and calm things down.

TMDK (Zack Sabre Jr., Shane Haste & Mikey Nicholls) vs. Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) & Tomohiro Ishii
Sabre’s now going by the nickname of “the Front Man,” as he’s now leading TMDK?

Haste and Goto start us off, locking up into the ropes… Haste doesn’t break cleanly, and gets charged down by Goto and YOSHI-HASHI as the newly-crowned tag champions clubbed away on TMDK. There’s some for Sabre too, with the help of Ishii, before Haste caught Goto’s arm over the ropes and began to stomp away on it.

TMDK take things outside as Sabre pounced on Goto’s injured arm, before he went after Ishii in the ring… and ended up doe-see-doeing into a back suplex. Nicholls takes a suplex too, before Sabre unwisely tried to trade strikes with Ishii… eventually getting hiptossed out of a Cobra twist before he struck Ishii down.

Ishii’s shoulder tackle bounced Sabre down, as a tag brought in YOSHI-HASHI… things looked to build up to Shoto, but everyone’s breaking up everything as we built up to the Tagbuster as TMDK put away YOSHI-HASHI. Solid enough, as we now have a clear tag title feud out of this too… ***

After the match, Sabre mused about getting another member for TMDK… and then roped in Kosei Fujita as part of the group. Hey, there’s a designated pin-eater and seemingly an early graduation, but poor Ryohei Oiwa’s left feeling left out as Sabre’s taken a page out of Jon Moxley’s book by taking a single Young Lion under his wing…

Shota Umino, Togi Makabe, Ryusuke Taguchi & YOH vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI)
Speaking of Moxley’s mentee… Shota comes out through the crowd, still holding that old Moxley jacket. Apparently Lio Rush has gone down with injury, so I’d suggest Taguchi subbed for him here?

Of course we’ve a jump start, as Taguchi’s attempts to overcome LIJ saw him leap into an atomic drop from BUSHI. The second try worked, before Taguchi’s arse eventually claimed YOH and Makabe as he was expecting to have LIJ run into his cheeks. You know the “oh dear, oh no” act that he has by now, right?

BUSHI puts the boots back to Taguchi from there, with Hiromu tagging in to chop Taguchi into the corner. SANADA’s in to keep it going, grounding Taguchi with a chinlock until YOH ran in to break it up. Hiromu takes care of YOH, throwing him into the rails while Naito and SANADA took down Taguchi for a two-count. SANADA rakes Taguchi’s back, but couldn’t avoid a boot out of the corner before Taguchi faked out a hip attack… then landed one for good measure. Makabe’s in to charge down SANADA ahead of mounted punches in the corner, before Shota tagged in and scored with armdrags and dropkicks.

A ‘rana and a dropkick keeps SANADA on the back foot, before SANADA rolled out of a sunset flip and tied up Shota in the Paradise Lock. Naito’s in, but Shota goes right to his bad knee, as a STF’s needed to be stomped apart by BUSHI… tags bring us back to Hiromu and YOH, with the latter running wild en route to a Falcon Arrow for a near-fall. LIJ swarm YOH after that, with Naito holding him for a Hiromu-chan Bomber for a near-fall, before YOH rolled his way out of a Time Bomb.

Hiromu shrugged it off, but ends up getting taken to the ropes, countering a Five Star Clutch before superkicking YOH down to the mat. Time Bomb II looks to follow, but YOH countered with a reverse ‘rana, then a superkick, before an over-the-knee Falcon arrow and a Direct Drive got the win… and that sure looks like YOH vs. Hiromu is going to be a championship rivalry going forward, in addition to the ongoing Naito/Shota stuff. ***¼

Bullet Club (Jay White, El Phantasmo, Taiji Ishimori & KENTA) vs. Tama Tonga, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hikuleo & Master Wato
There’s more than a few folks at loose ends here after last night…

Ishimori and Wato start us off here, with Wato eventually downing Ishimori with a bulldog. Tanahashi and KENTA tag in next, reigniting that rivalry from last year as they… got the crowd to clap. KENTA eventually got going with a side headlock, but Tanahashi countered with one of his own, only to get dropped with a DDT. KENTA tries to call the Bullet Club in, but Hikuleo’s quickly in to stop it.

Jay White tags in and works over Tanahashi, throwing him into boots in the corner, before Tanahashi tried to fire back with forearms and elbows. White tries to shut him down, eventually doing so with an eye rake that Tanahashi copies ahead of a Dragon screw to the former world champion. Hikuleo’s in to charge through White, whose attempted chop was pushed aside before the big man booted White down. KENTA and Ishimori come in and take clotheslines, before White’s chopped into the corner. A charge into the corner, then a powerslam out of it gets Hikuleo a two-count.

White rakes the eyes to stop Hikuleo, then kicked at the knees to avoid a chokeslam… before a short DDT left the big man laying. Tags bring us to El Phantasmo and Tama Tonga, with ELP getting splashed in the corner before he snuck back in with a CR2 attempt. Tama escapes, then elbowed out of a UFO as a Parade of Moves was sparked… culminating in a Hikuleo powerslam to White, before ELP nearly stole the win on Tama with a roll-up.

From the kick-out, a Tongan Twist leaves ELP laying, before Gedo ran in… and took a cutter. ELP grabbed the NEVER title belt and clocked Tama with it, and there’s your obvious DQ to probably set up Phantasmo/Tama for the title? ***

Post-match, low blows and chair shots cleared the ring, with Jay White breaking the seat out of a chair over Hikuleo – as he looks to be focusing his angst on him. Hey, they had a cracker of a match on Strong last year, so I’m not against that being run back… except White demanded a Loser Leaves Japan match, and that’s got my eyebrows raised.

KOPW 2023 Championship: SHO vs. Great O-Khan vs. Toru Yano vs. Shingo Takagi
This was the only match we knew of going in, these four were the last men standing in yesterday’s Ranbo – and one of them will leave with the newly-minted title belt that’s replacing the fake-Oscar trophy.

SHO took his time to get in the ring as the match eventually got going… with SHO stepping outside at the bell. Yano does the same, as O-Khan and Shingo square off to each other as commentary broke up laughing at the idea of Great O-Khan working those old “tribute” shows and holiday camps. I’d not be surprised if he hasn’t done both of those already…

Yano & SHO run in to try and surprise everyone with roll-ups, but they’re kicked out of as Yujiro and Dick Togo ended up pulling Shingo and O-Khan to the outside. Yano rips off a corner pad, but got thrown into the exposed corner for the sake of it… then got chucked outside so the House of Torture could get their shots in.

Thrown back in, Yano kicks out of a cover before SHO pulled him into the Snakebite submission. Shingo breaks it up, but instantly SHO’s on him as a trip to the exposed corner allowed SHO to follow up with a suplex on the former world champion. More distraction allowed Yujiro to clock Shingo with a chair as the referee was distracted, but it still doesn’t work for SHO, nor did a spear, which Shingo countered into a DDT.

Shingo pulls ahead with a slam and a back senton to SHO, before a sliding lariat was avoided. SHO’s elbows looked to lead to something, but instead he takes the Shingo combination of a jab, elbow and lariat, before O-Khan and Yano returned to the fray. O-Khan disarms SHO from his spanner, but got punted in the balls as he went for an Eliminator…

More shenanigans see SHO lay out Yano with a chair, before Shingo blocked another chair shot. The ref catches Shingo with the chair, but doesn’t call off the match as Shingo and O-Khan went outside to dispose of the House of Torture, with Shingo charging Yujiro through the guard rails to knock EVIL and Dick Togo off their seats. Back in the ring, SHO’s begging as Shingo and O-Khan put paid to him…

O-Khan and Shingo then trade Mongolian chops on each other, before Yano snuck in to hit an atomic drop. He slingshots O-Khan into the corner, then tried the same on Shingo… who put on the brakes. Yano takes his exposed corner, then a lariat as the end felt nigh. Yano eats an Eliminator, but Shingo breaks up the cover with a sliding punch, before he put Yano away with a Last of the Dragon. Shingo wins/retains the KOPW title… and with him having challenged Okada last night, there’s bound to be some chatter of unifying those two things, eh? ***

United Empire (Jeff Cobb & Aaron Henare) vs. Kazuchika Okada & Kenny Omega
That’s certainly a dream/random team opposite the Empire, eh? Kenny Omega, his black eye, and Kazuchika Okada. The audible noise from the clap crowd for the Okada coin drop was quite the thing…

Cobb and Omega start us off, with Omega getting taken to the ropes for a clean break – with Cobb eyeballing Okada as he did it. Omega rolls out of a German suplex as Cobb threatened to have his way with the new US champion… who promptly tagged in Okada. Henare’s in too, teasing kicks on Okada, taking the world champion to the corner for a series of body blows.

Henare’s Thesz press takes down Okada as he then knocked Omega off the apron, before Okada was whipped into the corner. Knees from Henare target Okada’s ribs en route to a two-count, before Cobb tagged in for some standing back-and-rib breakers. A standing moonsault from Cobb’s good for a two-count, before Henare tagged in to continue the focus on Okada.

Okada finally fights out of the corner, but got decked by a Henare kick for a two-count, who followed it up with a grounded head-and-arm choke. It’s escaped as Okada got elbowed… but he’s back out of the corner with the neckbreaker slam to Henare, before Omega got the tag in and instantly traded blows with Cobb.

Omega dunks Cobb on the way to a two-count, but a follow-up suplex needed some more work as Henare came in to wear down Omega with knees to the midsection. Breaking free, Omega hauls up Henare for the Finlay roll and springboard moonsault out of the corner for a two-count, before Okada tagged back in to keep things moving. Henare wriggles out of a landslide tombstone, then took Okada into the ropes for a thrust kick as the Empire began to focus on Okada once more.

Omega breaks up a cover, allowing Okada to try and go back to Henare… a dropkick does the trick ahead of a bodyslam and a top rope elbow drop. Cue the Rainmaker zoom-out… as Omega and Okada begin to rattle through their finishers, leading to a Rain-Trigger (Rainmaker/V-Trigger combo) to Henare… while a second Rainmaker to Henare proved to be enough for the win. A fun tag match to end the mystery show with – as Okada and Omega shared a fist-bump afterwards… which I’m sure will get reverse-psychology’d to suggest they’ll be facing off again in the future. ***½

Post-match, Cobb got in Omega’s face as those two are seemingly set for a US title match. Omega exits stage left. Okada’s show-closing speech is interrupted again by Shingo Takagi, who again challenged Okada for a title shot. Okada acknowledged he’d created the whole KOPW mess, and that he’d never held the title, and I guess we’re on for an IWGP World Heavyweight title defence at a date to be decided.

There’s a press conference tomorrow (January 6) that’ll cover the Wrestle Kingdom in Yokohama show on January 21 – that’s expected to be another New Japan vs. Pro Wrestling NOAH show, not on NJPW World, before the “main” show picks up on January 22 with the New Beginning in Nagoya. Based on the last 48 hours, the “old” New Japan certainly looks to be coming back into view – even if there’s still some niggling parts of the present to clear up, particularly when it comes to fresh faces atop the junior and heavyweight divisions…

Not a show that’ll wow you between the bells, but this was certainly the most eventful New Year Dash in years, culminating in THAT main event tag team. New Japan’s pressed the reset button somewhat with the formation of a new unit, a tease of another, and the growth of a third… and with only WrestleKingdom in Yokohama before the New Beginning shows at the end of the month, they managed to set up a LOT of stuff – as needed – to kickstart the next tour.