The final New Japan show of the year saw them complete their Korakuen Hall double-header – and again teased a change to the Tokyo Dome card.
Yuji Nagata and Manabu Nakanishi’s scuffle from Friday’s show has translated into a singles match today, on a show that also features Toru Yano’s return to the New Japan ranks, in a tag match against the Boner. I can wait…
Ryusuke Taguchi & Yoshitatsu vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Henare
With Henare’s mentor attending to other business tonight, he’s pairing up with Jushin “Thunder” Liger. Not a bad switch…
You know the drill for these opening match New Japan tags by now – plenty of fun, but not much to sink your teeth into. Liger wiped out Taguchi with a cannonball off the apron, before Yoshitatsu came in and sent Henare flying with hiptosses and a back body drop. A diving shoulder tackle from Henare started a fightback, which also saw Liger tie-up Yoshitatsu in a Romero special, before Henare tagged back and got a near-fall from an elbow drop. Taguchi came in and spammed his hip attacks, but Henare fought back with body slams and his flip senton, before Liger had to run in to save the match as Taguchi had an ankle lock on the youngster. Another ankle lock was rolled out of, before Taguchi eventually landed his Dodon facebuster for the win. **¾
For some reason, Liger, Taguchi and Yoshitatsu danced at the end of the match – I guess it’s Yoshi’s going away present…
Yujiro Takahashi & Bone Soldier vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano
Oh no. Oh no… what did I do to deserve this wrestling lump of coal in my Christmas stocking?
We opened with Yano and the Boner… and the usual shenanigans with Yano hiding in the ropes and quickly tagging out after cheapshotting the Boner. Takahashi came in and started biting Ishii, before he was taken outside and whipped into the guard railings by the Boner. Yano took a chairshot to the back that was so hard, the seat flew out, which meant that Ishii remained isolated… despite Yano popping back up onto the apron moments later.
Ishii eventually started to fire back with slaps to Yujiro, before ducking an attempted double-team and dropping Yujiro with a German suplex. Yank returned for more hijinx, and started by removing the turnbuckle pad, then ducking a Takahashi lariat. The Boner tagged in and surprised Yano by throwing him into the unprotected turnbuckle… but Yano outsmarted the Boner and ducked as he was clotheslined by Takahashi.
Ishii returned to throw folks around with belly-to-bellies, before getting shoved into the referee by the Boner. Yano prevented a belt choke, and held the Boner in place for a lariat and a brainbuster as Ishii picked up the win. This was nowhere near as painful as I expected… Yano in small doses is quite a thing. **¼
Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Juice Robinson vs. Chase Owens & Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)
This started as a teased three-on-one as Chase Owens pretended to not know where his partners were. Instead, the Guerrillas came out through the crowd, and tried to lay out their WrestleKingdom opponents with belt shots, only to miss.
Juice got posted early as an early plancha was caught, leading to the Guerrillas taking him out, before they went after Makabe and Honma on the floor. Back in the ring, Owens worked over Robinson, before Tonga and Loa had their turn, with the latter getting a near-fall out of a high, stalling back suplex. Robinson replied with a neckbreaker to both of the Guerrillas, before Honma came in and dropped a Kokeshi to Tama Tonga. Another diving Kokeshi knocked Tonga down for a near-fall, but Tonga came back with a back body drop as he managed to tag out to Tanga Loa. A big boot from Loa gets a near-fall, only for Honma’s deadlift suplex to give him the chance to tag in Makabe, who quickly fell to a powerslam.
The Guerrillas went back and forth with their opponents, before Chase Owens ate a swandive Kokeshi… only for the bell to ring again as Makabe went for the King Kong kneedrop. It was Toru Yano playing silly buggers again, but Makabe didn’t fall for it, and hit the kneedrop for the win. Decent match, but it’s obvious this was leading to something else. **¾
After the match, Tomohiro Ishii ran in and clotheslines Makabe, before dumping Honma with a headbutt. The Guerrillas try to double-team him, but Yano slides in and gets a double low blow in before running away with the tag titles. So… Yano and Ishii are in the tag title match? Who swaps for Ishii in that six-man gauntlet then?
Manabu Nakanishi vs. Yuji Nagata
Earlier this year, these two were happily teaming. Surely that losing record in the World Tag League wasn’t enough for Nakanishi to flip? The two trade wristlocks early on, before going into the ropes where Nakanishi did his best Okada not-clean-break impression. A shoulder block from Nakanishi led to a big splash for a near-fall, before he started to light up Nagata with chops in the corner. Nagata hit back with a series of kicks that cut down Nakanishi, then worked a heel hook that eventually forced a rope break.
Nakanishi caught another kick and went back to the chops, before a suplex led to a missed kneedrop. A spear out of the corner surprised Nagata, who was then placed on the top rope for a superplex. After Nagata bounced from the superplex, he rolled outside, where he was met with a plancha. Nakanishi going airborne… what the hell?!
Back in the ring, Nakanishi kept up the flying malarkey with a missile dropkick for a near-fall, before Nagata slipped out of an Argentine backbreaker. The pair exchanged more shots, with Nakanishi getting another two-count out of a lariat, then succeeded with the Argentine backbreaker that Nagata was swung out of into a neckbreaker. Nagata fought back when he countered an Irish whip into an armbar that Nakanishi scurried to the ropes to for a break.
More kicks followed as Nagata hit an armbreaker, before he went airborne with a release Fisherman’s superplex, then an Exploder for a near-fall. Nagata kept the offence going with an enziguiri, only to fall to a German suplex, before a series of kicks softened up Nakanishi for a brainbuster… that he kicked out of at one! Some more kicks rocked Nakanishi, before another Exploder proved to be enough as Nagata took the W. Make no mistake, this was slow-motion at times, but you’ve got to expect that with these two guys having a combined age of 97. Age aside, these guys worked hard, and put on a captivating match. ***¼
Hirooki Goto & Jado vs. Katsuyori Shibata & Tiger Mask
I wonder if Jado’ll try the “rake the eyes of the masked man on the ropes” gimmick again today?
Tiger Mask worked a fair bit of the match as the CHAOS pairing weirdly looked to keep Shibata out of the ring. Jado whipped Tiger Mask into the guard railings, before Goto worked over him with a rear chin lock and elbows in the ring. Eventually Tiger Mask broke free and dropped Goto with a Tiger Driver, only for Jado to dive in and prevent a tag out.
Shibata finally tagged in, after sneaking in a choke to Goto from the apron, and then we got our usual clubbering. Jado even tried to break it up again, to no effect as In-the-Zone Shibata was in the zone. Eventually Jado got a response, but that just got him a couple of forearms before Jado did the Flair flop.
Another rear naked choke finally took down Goto after Shibata applied some body scissors, which finally prompted Jado to break it up. Shibata ran into an ushigoroshi as he tried to lariat Goto to death, then took a spike DDT from Jado, before a somewhat out-of-nowhere finish came, as he booted Goto off the apron and to the floor, before turning around and flattening Jado with a PK for the win. They ended up replaying the finish because the camera cuts missed some of it live… Decent match, with some fun exchanges building up that Goto/Shibata Tokyo Dome match. ***½
Hiroshi Tanahashi, KUSHIDA, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & David Finlay vs. Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA, EVIL & BUSHI
This was the last time Tanahashi’ll be using his current theme, “High Energy”, so of course, the babyfaces all played air guitar to it before the match. Tanahashi’s getting a new theme for his Tokyo Dome appearance, which is going to sound weird.
Jushin Liger on commentary flipped off Naito as he was being taunted with the Intercontinental title belt, and we finally got going how you’d expect: a tease of KUSHIDA and Hiromu that ended up with an attack from behind by BUSHI, before SANADA tagged in. SANADA took Kojima and Tenzan’s usual stuff, including Mongolian chops and that slingshot elbow/falling headbutt combo, before Finlay got crotched in the ring post which acted as a catalyst for everyone to head to the outside and pair-off as you’d expect. Takahashi wiped out KUSHIDA and Tanahashi with a back senton off the top rope to the floor, and the tone stayed the same for a while longer before Finlay finally fought free and dropped Naito with a uranage backbreaker. That led to Tanahashi tagging in and cleaning house with bodyslams to SANADA and BUSHI, before Naito fell to a Dragon screw.
Kojima tagged in and subjected EVIL to the machine-gun-like chops in the corner, before the Ingobernables overwhelmed him, ending with a BUSHI codebreaker to Kojima for a near-fall. An MX missed as BUSHI fell to a missile dropkick from KUSHIDA, who then caught Takahashi with a Hoverboard Lock whilst Naito went into a cloverleaf from Tanahashi. The spectacle continued BUSHI ate a TenKoji Cutter, before the Strong Arm on BUSHI earned the win in another finish that the cameraman missed. A fun semi-final, which continued after the bell rang as KUSHIDA and Hiromu fought in the crowd after the bell. ***½
After the match, Tanahashi bade a final farewell to his entrance theme, before heading to the back.
Kenny Omega & Bad Luck Fale vs. Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI
The final New Japan match before the Tokyo Dome… and of course it’s to build-up the WrestleKingdom main event.
Omega and Okada worked briefly together, before they slowly worked away from that and towards YOSHI-HASHI and Fale, with the big guy dragging YOSHI to the outside and whipping him into the barriers, before throwing Okada next to him.
Back in the ring, Omega and Fale took their turns wearing down YOSHI-HASHI, including Omega landing a pump handle slam for a near-fall, then taking out Okada with a plancha to the outside. YOSHI-HASHI finally came back with a Bunker Buster to Omega, but Fale ran in and knocked down Okada to prevent a tag from being made.
Fale’s attempt to keep YOSHI-HASHI at bay failed when he took a reverse DDT that brought us back to Okada and Omega again, with Omega taking a spike DDT and a diving uppercut with aplomb. Omega tried to leap over Okada in the corner, but was caught and dropped with a neckbreaker slam, before Okada followed up with the top rope elbow drop and… Rainmaker pose!
Okada missed a Rainmaker and quickly ran into a ‘rana, before Omega added in a Finlay roll and a middle rope moonsault for a near-fall. Omega’s run ended when he took a flapjack from Okada, who then tagged out to YOSHI-HASHI for a spot of double-teaming, as Omega took a pair of dropkicks and a flipping neckbreaker for a near-fall.
Fale tagged in to end YOSHI-HASHI’s comeback with a straight forearm shot, but YOSHI fought out of a Bad Luck Fall/neckbreaker attempt, then ducked a superkick as Omega knocked Fale into the ropes. Omega countered YOSHI’s ‘rana into a powerbomb, then held him in place for a squashing elbow drop from Fale for a near-fall.
YOSHI-HASHI kept firing back though, and nearly ended the match with a powerbomb and a jack-knife cover on Omega, before a left-handed lariat and a senton bomb earned similar results. The numbers game overwhelmed YOSHI though, as he took an avalanche from Fale, who then flattened Okada with a big splash after a missed dropkick. From there, it was elementary as a knee strike, then the One Winged Angel earned Omega the win over YOSHI-HASHI. Great stuff to close out 2016 – not a match-of-the-year contender or anywhere close to it, but a solid main event. ***¾
After the match, Omega and Okada faced off again, with Omega noting how the entire tour, they’ve faced off in tag matches. Omega offered Okada some Christmas cheer, and a present in the form of a sneak attack from Fale, before the rest of the Bullet Club (sans Boner) hit the ring and set-up a table on the floor. So Omega’s Christmas present… was a One Winged Angel through the wood. Merry Christmas!
That brings 2016 to a close for New Japan – a year that started with some turmoil after four big names left for WWE, but also a year that ended with the promotion defying their critics and staying strong, in spite of those departures. WrestleKingdom 11 may have some matches that aren’t new or that enticing, but one thing is for sure: the Tokyo Dome card will deliver!