The dust is barely beginning to settle on Tetsuya Naito’s Double Gold Dash victory, as New Japan’s annual mystery show also played host to Jushin Thunder Liger’s retirement ceremony.

Instead of Korakuen Hall, we’re at Tokyo’s Ota City General Gymnasium – about 3-4x the size of Korakuen, and it’s still sold out. But first, we have the Jushin Thunder Liger retirement ceremony. Get your tissues ready, it’s about to get dusty…

Following a video tribute, the man himself came to the ring… still in gear. Because of course he did. The babyface locker rooms empty out, including the Young Lions at the rear (and Katsuyori Shibata), as Liger was given enough flowers to start a garden with. First the New Japan “home unit”, then CHAOS, then New Japan chairman Naoki Sugabayashi, Harold Meij, “Mrs Liger” (for want of a better term), and his son, and now the tears are going guys.

We’re not done though: there’s a video message from Antonio Inoki too, before Liger had one more farewell speech, thanking the fans, and his elderly mum, who was shown in the crowd. The traditional ten bell salute followed, before Liger gave his final farewells to everyone in the ring as we ended with Liger karaoke.

When we get going, English commentary comes from Kevin Kelly, Gino Gambino and Chris Charlton.

Karl Fredericks, Clark Connors & Alex Coughlin vs. Toa Henare, Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura
It’s our standard Young Lion opener, and we start with Uemura and Connors scrambling on the mat, working armdrags and front chanceries before Connors began to work into a STF.

Tsuji and Coughlin tag in after that hold’s broken, and it’s Tsuji who charges down Alex with a shoulder charge… and things quickly get a little aggressive from there as Coughlin blistered Tsuji with chops. A side Salto suplex ragdolls Tsuji to the mat for a near-fall, before Connors came in to help with a double-team hiptoss as the LA Dojo lads took control.

Karl Fredericks comes in to wreck Tsuji with a chop of his own, as Tsuji gets caught in the wrong corner for yet more chops. Eventually Tsuji begins to fight back, hitting a slam as Henare gets the tag in to try and clear house. Connors and Fredericks get dispatched as Coughlin tried to light up Henare with more chops, but it’s a superkick that turns the tables. Henare keeps going with a running Samoan drop for a near-fall, but Fredericks sneaks back in, while Connors’ spear helps Coughlin snatch a two-count.

Henare wallops Coughlin with an elbow, then a suplex, before Uemura and Fredericks came in to keep the intensity high. A Capture suplex from Uemura’s blocked, with Fredericks hitting an Orton backbreaker before running into a dropkick. The capture suplex lands at the second attempt, getting a near-fall before Uemura rolled Fredericks into a Boston crab, but the hold’s broken up just as Karl was looking to tap.

That GODDAMN Fredericks dropkick catches out Uemura, who responds with an inside cradle to counter a spinebuster. Fredericks hits the spinebuster at the second try, then the leaping elbow, before he rolled Uemura into a half crab for the submission. I absolutely loved the intensity on display here, with the Young Lions almost having a point to prove here… keep an eye on Henare and Fredericks in 2020! ***½

There’s some afters too, as Tsuji charged after Clark Connors, catching everyone by surprise.

Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo) vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI) vs. Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
The parade of junior tag teams is second up, and it’s a non-title outing. Hiromu’s got his own tribute to Jushin Thunder Liger on his wrist tape…

We get going as Ishimori and Phantasmo jump the team that beat them yesterday, forcibly ripping the tag titles off of SHO & YOH before attempts to use them as a weapon ended with the Bullet Club tandem getting dropkicked to the outside. Desperado and Kanemaru trip the champs as all eight men end up outside, and thrown into the guard rails, as we settle down a little with Hiromu and YOH.

Chops from Hiromu take YOH into the ropes, but a drop toe hold and a low dropkick turns it around. The Bullet Club steal a tag in as they continue to work over Hiromu, before Phantasmo began mocking the old Jushin Thunder Liger poses. Cheap and easy heat. Hiromu’s put in a Tree of Woe for the Gas Pedals, before the ring cleared again, this time with Hiromu getting thrown into the guard rails as Kanemaru followed with a slicing legdrop.

Back in the ring, Hiromu’s ganged up on as everyone seemed to go after him to get a singles title shot, before Kanemaru began to rip away at his eyes. Desperado tries his luck next, before Kanemaru stopped himself from taking a blind tag in the ropes. He misses YOH doing the same thing though, only for YOH to find himself in the path of a powerbomb.

El Phantasmo pulls SHO out of the corner to stop a tag as the Bullet Club manipulate their way in. BUSHI’s in with a missile dropkick as things get a little wild… he then proceeds to tope on ELP on the outside, before Despy kicks the ropes into BUSHI on the way to a tag. Ishimori’s in with a handspring enziguiri, before SHO returned the favour from earlier, pulling ELP out of the corner to steal a tag in, as Roppongi 3K finally built some momentum.

A spear to Kanemaru leads to a corner clothesline, and a step-up elbow, before dual leaping knees had Despy back in trouble. The 3K’s teased, but BUSHI and Kanemaru stop it as a Parade of Moves breaks out, including a very CCK-ish elevated lungblower and a moonsault as things continued to be a little out of control. YOH hits a tope con giro onto the Bullet Club pair, while SHO and Desperado charge at each other. All that leads to a Power Breaker on Desperado for a near-fall, before Despy flips out of a Shock Arrow, punching out SHO as well.

BUSHI goes for the mist, but “accidentally” gets SHO… which led to Desperado snatching a roll-up as the new junior tag champions lose. This was fine, but perhaps a little too “fire cracker”-y of a match. Nothing against those types of matches, but there’s a reason New Japan doesn’t do these four-way tags often… ***¼

Bullet Club (Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa), Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens) vs. Juice Robinson, David Finlay, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi
The Guerrillas have new jackets, which I guess eases things in terms of the loss of their tag titles…

Chase keeps trying to get Ibushi to join the Bullet Club… he wouldn’t, so Chase beats him down. Kota’s back with a dropkick, as Tanahashi tags in, quickly landing a springboard crossbody out of the corner before he dealt with a cheapshot from Tama Tonga on the apron. Fale proves to be an equaliser though, charging down Tanahashi as all eight men end up on the floor, and in the guard rails. Chase takes Kota into the back of the room, while Finlay and Tama head around, with someone’s Daryl doll getting used as a weapon.

Things settle down in the ring as Tanahashi tries to slam Fale, but to no avail, before he got caught in the corner for a swift body blow. Tanga Loa keeps the pressure up before he got caught with a Twist and Shout… as Juice Robinson gets the tag in. A cannonball quickly traps Tanga in the corner, before Dusty punches and the Left Hand of God sparked a big Parade of Moves, as the Bullet Club looked to take over.

Eventually dual back suplexes from the tag champions have the Guerrillas down before Fale just charged through them. Chase is back to go for a gutbuster on Juice, but he blocks it and brings Ibushi in… and Fale’s straight in to stop any momentum. It doesn’t work as Ibushi connects with the backflip kick to Chase and Fale in one go, before a Kendo stick shot from Jado set up for a Jewel Heist to nearly end the match.

Chase keeps going, landing a diving knee to Ibushi for a near-fall, before a V-Trigger looked to set up for a package piledriver… but Ibushi wriggles free. A Bomaye knee proved to be a worthy response, as Tanahashi threw in a Slingblade before Kamigoye puts Chase away. Perfectly fine stuff, but this had the distinct whiff of “after the Lord Mayor’s show”… ***

After the match, Ibushi and Tanahashi seemed to suggest that they should go for the tag team titles… and a friendly handshake suggests that that’s where we’re going. Sure, throw two singles guys together – at least it’s a new tandem in the mixer.

Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & Shingo Takagi) vs. Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii
As long as Goto doesn’t dog it, this should be a banger… Those NEVER trios titles that EVIL & Shingo won yesterday were noticeably absent. SSDD.

EVIL & Ishii start us off, but it’s LIJ who are on the deck as we’ve got lariats a-go-go on the way to a near-fall in the opening minute for Ishii. Evil’s quickly back with Darkness Falls for a near-fall, playing off of the flub in the NEVER gauntlet yesterday, before more strikes left both men on their arses. Goto and Shingo come in to trade clotheslines in the corner, but Goto’s able to push ahead with a suplex for a near-fall.

A back elbow and a sucker punch from Shingo leads to a big lariat that drops Goto as these four hosses are not holding back. EVIL’s on the outside with a chair for Ishii as we go into baseball season, while Goto gets thrown into the guard rails at ringside. EVIL peppers Ishii with chops by the railings as the referee starts the 20-count, then made it back to the ring as he went back for Goto, taking him in the corner for a Bronco buster.

Shingo’s back for an effortless suplex that nearly wins it for LIJ, before he did the universal belt motion while standing on Goto. EVIL returns but takes a big clothesline off of Goto, as Ishii tags in and peppers EVIL with chops and forearms in the corner. A shoulder tackle keeps EVIL at bay, but a misdirection superkick and a push-down stomp in the ropes has EVIL back in it. EVIL’s Fisherman buster nearly gets a win, as did a clothesline, as the ring begins to fill… then empty, as a Darkness Scorpion looked to force a stoppage. Goto’s able to come in and break it up, pulling EVIL into a neckbreaker before Shingo fell onto his back to break up a Goto sleeperhold.

Darkness Falls again for EVIL, as another two-count comes his way, before Ishii blocks a tonne and hits an enziguiri to stop EVIL in his tracks. Shingo and Goto tussle next, as a sliding lariat from Shingo nearly gets the win, only for Goto to return with a spinning heel kick and a back suplex for a near-fall. Another Parade of Moves breaks out, as Shingo’s clothesline suddenly lose effectiveness, before he ran into an ushigoroshi. A sliding lariat from Ishii leads to a NASTY elevated reverse GTR a near-fall.

More lariats leave everyone on the deck, and we’re back with Goto and Shingo absolutely BLISTERING each other. Dualling headbutts have Shingo down… but Goto stays on his feet, only for Shingo to counter a mid kick with a GTR of his own in the ropes. From there, Last of the Dragon hits and this match comes to a brutal end. ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC. Four men whose placing on the cards was a little in doubt, and they end up showing their case… and then some. WATCH THIS. ****¼

Post-match, Shingo calls out Goto and suggests that they have a match for the NEVER title, as he’s learned something from Tetsuya Naito yesterday… getting a taste for gold.

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr., Lance Archer & Taichi) vs. Kazuchika Okada, YOSHI-HASHI & Birds of Prey (Will Ospreay & Robbie Eagles)
Good luck following that!

We’ve got Sabre and Ospreay facing off, with Will making a point of that Rev Pro title belt. Yes please. Okada and Taichi had a brief tease, which perhaps isn’t that bad a thing, but we start with Sabre and Ospreay working over each other’s arm. Will trips Zack for a toe hold, but it’s quickly escaped as Zack grabs a cravat, then pulled Ospreay into a bow and arrow hold before headscissors from Ospreay ended this sublime sequence.

Eagles comes in next, hitting a double-team elbow on Sabre before Suzuki came in with a hanging armbar to Eagles… and here comes the bedlam. Robbie gets buried under guard rails and chairs, while Taichi took Okada into the ring post as Sabre made a dig at Ospreay’s supposed political preferences.

Back in the ring, Suzuki and Sabre work over Eagles, who’s then taken outside and into the guard rails. Lance Archer doesn’t make things any easier for Eagles, knocking him loopy with a Derailer, before Sabre and Suzuki rotated around Eagles with a virtual Rolodex of holds.

Eagles tries to fight back against Suzuki, but it’s laughed off as Suzuki just knocked more shades of you-know-what out of him. A heel hook almost forces a submission, before Eagles rolled into the ropes to break a knee bar. Eventually Eagles hit back with a spinning heel kick, but had to drag himself across to tag in YOSHI-HASHI, who ran into a chokeslam attempt. YOSHI-HASHI gets free and hits a Head Hunter to Archer, before he tries for a Bunker Buster… and fell short. Taichi’s in, but he takes a spin kick from YOSHI as Okada tags in to try and get some retaliation going. A back elbow drops Taichi, but Okada’s grabbing his neck… even more so after he took a Saito suplex that put the Dangerous in Dangerous T.

That nearly gets Taichi the win, so he rips off the trousers… only to get caught by Eagles as a Parade of Moves broke out. A Black Hole Slam drops YOSHI-HASHI before Archer’s dropkicked away by Okada… and we’re back to square one as Taichi punts Okada low… then strikes him with Takashi Iizuka’s old funky oven glove, and there’s the DQ. This was fine, but man, Taichi making a statement at the end with the Iron Fingers perhaps tells you he’s next for Okada. ***

Post-match, Sabre and Ospreay brawl to the back, while Taichi’s stopped by… Jon Moxley?! The US champion comes through the crowd, but Suzuki’s still around… and we’re getting the teases again! Hell, we’re getting more than teases as they lay into each other with forearms, then a bunch of ear drum splitting slaps before a Death Rider leaves Suzuki laying. First blood to Mox!

Of course, Suzuki laughs it off when he comes to.

Bullet Club (KENTA & Jay White) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & SANADA)
The last thing we saw at the end of WrestleKingdom was KENTA sitting atop of Tetsuya Naito… and with his own designs on the top prize, could KENTA perhaps be stirring up tension with his tag partner here tonight?

KENTA’s getting absolute pelters here, showered with boos on his entrance. Given how reserved Japanese crowds have a reputation for being, that’s damn impressive.

Naito goes straight for KENTA at the bell, kicking him outside and throwing him into the guard rails as White seemed to be happy just staying behind with SANADA. Gedo grabs SANADA’s leg to stop him from building momentum, but it’s Jay White who’s running away as Naito went after him. KENTA’s quickly on the scene, throwing Naito through the rails before DDTing him in the aisle, and that’s really endearing KENTA to this crowd some more…

In the ring, a neckbreaker drops SANADA for a near-fall, before KENTA tagged in and just walked over SANADA. An elbow keeps SANADA down before KENTA again went for Naito, throwing him into the railings as the boos kept raining down on him.

White’s back in with a back elbow for a two-count, while KENTA continued to wear down SANADA… stopping to mock the crowd. This is beautiful stuff from KENTA, but we finally get Naito in as he threw his first shots at KENTA, hitting an elbow before a neckbreaker and a low dropkick took KENTA into the corner. Another neckbreaker in the corner has Naito ahead, but KENTA doesn’t fall too far as he ends up sucking Naito in for another DDT. White tags in and works over the knee that he’d started on on Saturday, only for a Naito ‘rana to buy him time as SANADA gets in. SANADA flies with Pescados to the outside, before he looked to tie up White in a Paradise Lock… it doesn’t quite come off, before White uses the ref for a distraction on the way to a snap suplex. A Blade Buster follows for a near-fall, before SANADA fought back in with a Skull End.

Gedo tries to intervene, but SANADA lets go and punts the ropes into Gedo’s groin before going back to Skull End. Jay White’s swung around ahead of a moonsault… but SANADA aborts and ends up taking a sleeper suplex, landing right on his head. Nevermind though, one more exchange ends with SANADA snatching the pin with a Japanese leg clutch hold, and there’s the pin! Jay White takes a shock loss, as they solidify KENTA as the top challenger… for now. ***¼

Post-match, White low blows SANADA while KENTA and Naito scrapped, before the Bullet Club tandem laid them out with chairs. Yet again, the Bullet Club spoils LIJ’s celebrations, with Jay White setting his sights on SANADA for the future, while KENTA continued to mock the Tokyo crowd in the end-of-show promo. KENTA drinks in the boos as he played the crowd like a proverbial fiddle, kicking away Naito before picking up the two belts. Perhaps through gritted teeth, Jay White put him over, but if KENTA wins, it’s not going to be long before tensions flare in Bullet Club.

So, New Year Dash was the perfect comedown to two nights of WrestleKingdom. There was no killer angle as seems to be the new norm for this show, but we did get the emotional farewell to Jushin Thunder Liger, and a pair of cracking matches. Make time for that Young Lion opener, and DEFINITELY the Shingo/EVIL vs. Ishii/Goto tag. You’ll thank me later…