Cheering crowds are back at the Tokyo Dome for the first time since 2020, as Wrestle Kingdom sees no less than eight title defences to start the year.

Quick Results
Ryohei Oiwa and Oleg Boltin went to a draw in 3:00 (**)
SHO, Great O-Khan, Toru Yano & Shingo Takagi were the final four in the New Japan Ranbo at 30:37 (**¾)
Togi Makabe, Yuji Nagata & Satoshi Kojima pinned Tiger Mask, Minoru Suzuki & Tatsumi Fujinami in 9:09 (**½)
TJP & Francesco Akira pinned YOH & Lio Rush to retain the IWGP Junior Tag Team Championships in 10:31 (***½)
KAIRI pinned Tam Nakano to retain the IWGP Women’s Championship in 5:56 (***)
YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto pinned Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler to win the IWGP Tag Team Championships in 10:10 (***½)
Zack Sabre Jr. submitted Ren Narita in 10:35 to win the NJPW World TV Championship (***¾)
Tama Tonga pinned Karl Anderson in 9:34 to win the NEVER Openweight Championship (***¼)
Shota Umino, Keiji Muto & Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned BUSHI, SANADA & Tetsuya Naito in 9:19 (***¼)
Hiromu Takahashi pinned Master Wato, Taiji Ishimori & El Desperado in 16:42 to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship (***¾)
Kenny Omega pinned Will Ospreay in 34:37 to win the IWGP United States Championship (*****)
Kazuchika Okada pinned Jay White in 33:02 to win the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship (****¼)

Hope you all had a healthy and safe holiday season – we’ve got cheering crowds back at the Tokyo Dome… and for what feels like the first time in a similar stretch, we’ve got an Aussie on English commentary as Gino Gambino is live in person, as opposed to Kevin Kelly doing his best “Ted from Bob’s Burgers doing an Aussie accent.” Chris Charlton completes the booth…

Oleg Boltin vs. Ryohei Oiwa
This is the debut of the 29-year old Boltin, who was paraded by Yuji Nagata in front of a New Japan crowd back in October. We’ve got just a three-minute exhibition for the Kazakh’s debut here.

We open with scrambles as Boltin eventually double-legged Oiwa, before armdrags had Oiwa in the ropes. Standing switches saw Boltin take down Oiwa with a waistlock, but there’s no follow-up as we hit the final minute, with Oiwa’s wristlock and takedown leading to a cross armbar that ended in the ropes.

A shoulder tackle from Oiwa dumps Boltin, who returned with a nice leapfrog and hiptoss before a bodyslam picked up a two-count at the bell. Boltin looked impressive for the time he had, but it’s super early days. **

New Japan Ranbo
The final four here will competing at New Year Dash!! tomorrow for the new KOPW title belt…

SHO started at number one, with Kevin Kelly noting that Chase Owens was back in the States… number two is Hikuleo, who tries to slam SHO to the outside… but then Hikuleo… eliminates himself? 34 seconds in he stepped over the top rope to chase SHO, but that’s not counted as number three’s revealed as EVIL. Cue the double-teaming…

EVIL avoids a chokeslam as he and Hikuleo trade finishers… a full nelson slam drops EVIL as Tomohiro Ishii joined the fray, aiming right for Hikuleo and BOY, THAT HEIGHT DIFFERENCE. They opted to double-team SHO instead, but a swerve sees Ishii and SHO suplex Hikuleo as the ticker resumed… giving us Great O-Khan as our next entrant.

O-Khan’s taking his time to parade his Rev Pro title belt, so the ticker starts again with DOUKI wandering out. DOUKI goes after O-Khan, but the pair powder to the outside as EVIL tried to eliminate Ishii. Dick Togo saves EVIL, and we get another entrant in the form of Rocky Romero. Rocky tries to pull EVIL off the apron, but instead sidesteps as SHO knocked EVIL off the apron at 8:05.

Forever clotheslines from Rocky follow, just for SHO, as KENTA headed out… power walking like Santino Marella used to. KENTA went right for Ishii’s eyes, as we get Yoshinobu Kanemaru joining the match as a former Suzuki-gun guy. He’s kept the whiskey though…

Kanemaru guns for KENTA, but little else happens as Aaron Henare entered the field. Henare and Ishii trade shoulder tackles and elbows like they were going out of style as that old rivalry flared up, leading to a Blue Thunder Bomb that would have won… but O-Khan broke up the pin for… reasons. Ryusuke Taguchi joins next, as Ishii got lifted over the top rope by Henare, then booted to the floor at 14:24 by Henare and O-Khan.

Out next was Jeff Cobb, as the United Empire’s ranks continued to join the match. DOUKI saves Kanemaru from a chokeslam, but the pair get suplexed instead before Hikuleo chucked out DOUKI at 16:27. Kanemaru’s out at 16:33, before Shane Haste entered the match. There’s Young Lions at ringside, so I’m not expecting the entire crew to be in this match. Maybe next year, Oskar…

Haste plants Rocky Romero with a back suplex, before Rocky ‘rana’d out of a powerbomb seconds afterwards. Mikey Nicholls is in next, still mad, as Rocky’s eliminated at 19:17. A Tagbuster eliminated Taguchi at 19:31 as TMDK took care of the other ass man, while Yujiro Takahashi came into play. Cobb and O-Khan target Hikuleo before O-Khan clotheslined him out at 21:03… and here comes Toru Yano.

Haste chucks Cobb at 21:34 as the cameras were focused on Yano, before Henare took out Haste at 21:52. O-Khan and Henare take care of Nicholls at 21:10, as the counter popped up again for El Phantasmo to join the match. ELP goes to town with back rakes, before he low bridged Henare onto the apron… then tweaked the nipples to eliminate Henare at 24:18.

Taichi’s in next, but the ring clears as everyone opted to fight on the floor instead. O-Khan slides intro the ring to go all sumo with Taichi, but he gets thrown down as Shingo Takagi joined the match – looking to stake his claim for the KOPW 2023 title, having won it in 2022. He’s also apparently the last one out?

Shingo and Taichi trade clotheslines before another sumo takedown from Taichi had Shingo on the deck. The Bullet Club crew – Phantasmo, KENTA, SHO & Yujiro – swarm Taichi and lift him out ahead of the elimination at 27:50. Shingo wipes out Yujiro and KENTA, throwing out Yujiro at 28:30, then KENTA at 28:32, before ELP went for a hug from his “Daddy.”

Shingo avoids a dick punch, then threw ELP over the top rope… Phantasmo’s knocked off onto the guard rails, so he’s still in as Yujiro and KENTA carried him back to the apron. A low bridge brings Shingo onto the apron, before SHO accidentally charged ELP off the apron to end things as Shingo, SHO, Great O-Khan and Toru Yano were our final four for tomorrow’s KOPW title. I will say, the half-hour mostly flew by on this, but this was your typical ranbo without any of the usual surprises. Heck, there was a lot of typical ranbo fodder not there – no Fale, no Honma, no Young Lions… **¾

Togi Makabe, Satoshi Kojima & Yuji Nagata vs. Tatsumi Fujinami, Minoru Suzuki & Tiger Mask
For the Inoki memorial match… everyone’s got the red Inoki towels and… THEY DIDN’T OVERDUB IMMIGRANT SONG! Yes, New Japan finally coughed up for the rights… at least for today!

Nagata and Fujinami start off the match locking up into the ropes, before they traded wristlocks. Kicks from Nagata led to him taking a Dragon screw from Fujinami, as Suzuki tagged in… and HOO BOY, remember Nagata and Suzuki lighting it up in the early pandemic days? They went back to that here, with Suzuki kicking down Nagata ahead of some chops in the corner, while Tiger Mask came in to add some kicks.

Yeah, it is odd Suzuki instantly being “a guy” after Suzuki-gun went out on the last pre-Christmas show. Fujinami’s back to trade slaps with Nagata, who just couldn’t get out of the corner before Suzuki decided to clonk him with elbows. Nagata fired back though, eventually landing an Exploder before tagging in Kojima, who went right to work with the Machine Gun chops.

Suzuki roars off those chops, so Kojima fired away some more… before he and Suzuki traded elbows. CLONK goes Suzuki, as Tiger mask came in to help double-team Kojima ahead of a Tiger Driver for a near-fall. A Koji Cutter bought Kojima time as Makabe tagged in to corner Tiger Mask for some mounted punches… only for Fujinami to come back in with Dragon screws as the ring filled and cleared.

A hattrick of submission attempts have Makabe’s crew on the back foot, before Tiger Mask tried a crucifix on Makabe for a near-fall. Makabe’s back with a clothesline, before he went up top for a King Kong Knee drop… which Suzuki cut off as Tiger Mask tried and whiffed on a victory roll. Eventually he tried a roll-up, but Makabe sat down on it to get the win as a decent trios match went badly off the rails at the end. **½

Post-match, Fujinami took the mic and led the crowd in a “ichi, ni, san, DA!” call as the crew left to Antonio Inoki’s music and video.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: YOH & Lio Rush vs. Catch 22 (Francesco Akira & TJP) (c)
YOH & Rush won the Super Junior Tag League last month to get this shot – against one of only two teams they lost to during the tournament…

YOH leaps onto the champions before the bell, as the challengers looked to make light work of things here. A wacky Asai moonsault from Rush keeps Catch 22 down on the outside, as all four brawled around the done, with Rush teasing a suplex on the ramp, before he ate a pop-up facebuster on the ramp instead.

In the ring, Akira and TJP pepper YOH with kicks before Akira hung up YOH in a Tree of Woe for a rope-walk dropkick into the corner. YOH’s kicked to the outside as the champions added a wacky elevated dropkick from Akira off of TJP’s shoulders – think the old CCK elevated back senton.

Back inside, YOH’s cornered by TJP before a bloodied Lio Rush came in to break things up. YOH’s dropkick bought him time to tag in a somewhat compromised Rush, but Lio lit the touch paper and burst into life, cracking TJP with an enziguiri ahead of a handspring double back elbow to the champions. A low-pe wipes out TJP, then Akira, before a Tomahawk from Rush – a spinning Killswitch – nearly got the win.

YOH’s back in, but Rush slips on a Rush Hour springboard stunner… and that almost allowed the champions back in. Especially once YOH’s attempt at an avalanche Direct Drive was blocked… he’s able to break out though, hitting an over-the-knee brainbuster before a Final Hour frog splash from Rush almost led to the unexpected title change.

From there, the 3K wipes out Akira, but TJP cleared house from a blind tag, laying out YOH with a Detonation kick for a near-fall. The champions go for the Leaning Tower again, but a reverse ‘rana from YOH breaks it up as Rush ran in for a one-man Spanish Fly to Akira… then the 3K to TJP as Akira narrowly saved the titles once more.

Rush finally lands a Rush Hour to Akira, but the Italian spills outside as YOH went for Direct Drive… it’s countered into an inside cradle, and that’s the win for the champions. This was buttery-smooth at times, and a match I’d have loved to have seen get more than its ten minutes, but alas… ***½

IWGP Women’s Championship: Tam Nakano vs. KAIRI (c)
KAIRI won the inaugural IWGP women’s title back at the Historic X-Over show last year…

From the opening lock-up, KAIRI took Nakano into the ropes for a mocking pat on the head… then a gut punch on the break. Nakano cartwheels over KAIRI, but couldn’t avoid an armdrag before a low dropkick had the champion down. Rapid-fire forearms from Nakano led to a spear from KAIRI, then a sliding forearm into the corner and a flying punch off the top for a two-count.

Nakano took KAIRI outside, following up with a crossbody to the floor, then a bridging German suplex back inside for a two-count… before a Screwdriver almost won Tam the title. The cutlass backfist from KAIRI strikes down Nakano moments after for a near-fall, before another cutlass left Nakano laying for an Insane Elbow which gets the win. A heck of a match, but at a shade over five minutes, I was left wanting more… this isn’t how the IWGP Women’s title is going to be treated in Japan, is it? ***

Hey, the lights went out afterwards… and this is what people were waiting for. Cue a video of a familiar figure, and the debut of “the CEO” Mercedes Moné – the former Sasha Banks. Moné squares up to KAIRI, who held her belt aloft, only to get caught with what I guess was a spin-out Gory bomb? That gave me flashbacks to Paige’s main roster debut, even if they hit the main beats in terms of getting stuff done for the magazines and front pages.

Moné introduces herself on the mic afterwards, ending with her new catchphrase – “you can bank on Moné.” That was perhaps a little flat for a debut after the reveal, but Moné vs. KAIRI was confirmed for NJPW Battle in the Valley in San Jose next month… and I don’t like KAIRI’s chances.

IWGP Tag Team Championship: Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. FTR (Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler) (c)
Bishamon won World Tag League to get this spot, and I know there’s more than a few mischievous fans wanting YOSHI-HASHI to beat Dax here…

Cash Wheeler only arrived at the venue just before bell time thanks to a hell-ish travel day (and a bit). YOSHI-HASHI and Cash start off, as the feeling-out process had the challengers ahead. Dax and Goto tag in, with those two trading right hands up until YOSHI-HASHI came in to charge down Dax… leading to an early crack at Shoto, which Cash broke up.

A tope from Cash clears out the challengers in the aisle, before a Power Plex from the champions laid out Goto for a two-count. Goto’s sandwiched by clotheslines afterwards, before Goto fought away from Big Rig and returned fire with an ushigoroshi. My feed drops out, as Bishamon went for Shoto again, only to get caught with a Big Rig… the cover’s broken up as YOSHI-HASHI and Cash do the Davey Richards suplex from the ring to the floor…

Dax gets thrown aside twice by Goto, then headbutted, before a suplex bought Goto time. YOSHI-HASHI is back on the apron and tags in as Dax eats a superkick… only to escape Karma and finally hit his Memphis piledriver for a near-fall. A spike piledriver follows, but Goto breaks the pin and my word, the crowd being audible is really lifting this.

Goto’s chucked outside as YOSHI-HASHI has to block another Big Rig… Goto’s back to clothesline Cash to the outside, before Dax took another superkick and finally Shoto for the win! The mischievous prediction came true and we’re still dealing with short matches here as this went just over ten-minutes… while FTR’s title-shedding losing run continued in earnest. ***½

NJPW World TV Championship Tournament Final: Ren Narita vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
We’ve got a 15-minute time limit here, and a match that really ought to have tongues wagging if their tournament matches so far are anything to go by.

Katsuyori Shibata’s on Japanese commentary for this one, as we start with Narita and the newly-peroxide Sabre going for armbars, before a front kick took Sabre down. Sabre blocked a half hatch suplex and dumps Narita with an arm whip, following up with a stomp to the elbow before Narita caught Sabre with an overhead belly-to-belly off the ropes.

Sabre’s caught in the corner ahead of a bridging half-hatch suplex for a two-count, before the pair battled over a Cobra Twist. Snapmares and kicks to the back followed instead, with both men asking and receiving them, before they traded front kicks, which led to them both knocking each other on their arses.

Sabre’s back up quickly to go for a PK, before he peppered Narita with uppercuts… until Ren caught him with a bridging Exploder for a near-fall. More kicks from Narita are countered into a leg lock, which ends quickly in the ropes, allowing Sabre to just torment Narita with kicks to the chest.

Narita returns the favour though, following with a Northern Lights suplex for another two-count, only for Sabre to leap in with a guillotine and a triangle armbar. Ren stomps the hold apart, only to get caught with an overhead kick to the arm… before he knocked Zack down. A rear naked choke’s next out of Ren, before see-saw pins almost saw Sabre win with a Euro clutch.

Ren’s back with a German suplex, but misses a spinning heel kick as Sabre punts his way back in, then nearly snatched the win as he countered a Narita Special #3 into a pin. We’re back to the Cobra twist, but Sabre pulls Narita down into an armbar for the rapid submission to win the belt. Not the winner I’d have gone for, but this was such a slick match – exactly what I wanted to see going in, but you get what you get! ***¾

Post-match, TMDK’s Shane Haste and Mikey Nicholls hit the ring and offer Sabre a spot in the group… Sabre takes the t-shirt, and the band’s back together with Sabre having been alongside (but not part of) the group back in his NOAH days. That’s one Suzuki-gun free agent snapped up then…

NEVER Openweight Championship: Tama Tonga vs. Karl Anderson (c)
The pre-show speculation was that this match “wasn’t going to get time.” Given most of the card’s been around the ten-minute mark, that had better not end up a troll-job…

Sadly there’s no Doc Gallows on this Inoki tribute show. Anderson clocked Tama with the NEVER title belt before the bell, as the match headed outside with Tama getting suplexed neck-first over the guard rails. Breaking the count, Anderson heads outside and takes Tama into the aisle and dumps him with the Bernard Driver (Fire Thunder driver) on the walkway.

A Gun Stun follows, but Tama pushes it away as Anderson crashed and burned on the ramp. Back on the ring, Anderson and Tama trade blows on the apron, leading to a blocked Tama Gun Stun, then a big boot from Anderson. They resume strikes, with Anderson landing an uppercut before Tama charged out of the corner with a clothesline.

Tama adds a Stinger splash in the corner as he boxed away on the champion. A second Stinger splash comes up short, as Anderson came back out of the corner with a TKO for a two-count, before Tama fought back with the SRC rolling death valley driver. Heading up top, Tama looked for a Supreme Flow, but got cut-off by Anderson’s avalanche brainbuster attempt… he shoves it off though, then crashed down with a crossbody, before the more-sprightly Tama went back up for the Supreme Flow.

Anderson kicks out at two from that, then blocked another Gun Stun… only to have his own one blocked seconds later after a whole lotta misdirection. In the end, Tama launches out of the corner with a Gun Stun off the middle rope, before another Gun Stun finally took down Anderson to end the long nightmare. Yeah, that one didn’t look as clean as we’re having a spate of things that aren’t quite clicking here, but the match wasn’t anywhere near as bad as you’d have feared. ***¼

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & BUSHI) vs. Keiji Muto, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Shota Umino
Billed as Muto’s final match in New Japan – having had his last as Great Muta last year – hopefully he can avoid the same kind of problematic promo that he had at NOAH on New Year’s Day…

SANADA and Muto start us off – the student and the teacher – with SANADA going right for the knees with a low dropkick. Hey, that’s smart, considering Muto worked only three days ago. A backbreaker led to SANADA going up top for a moonsault, but Muto kicks out as this match sure as hell wasn’t going 50 seconds.

Muto returns with a low dropkick and a Shining Wizard, before he went up top for a moonsault of his own… but Hiroshi Tanahashi talks him out of it, as Muto instead hit an elbow drop. Tanahashi tags in and clears the LIJ apron ahead of a springboard crossbody out of the corner, before a turnaround saw SANADA clear the way. BUSHI tags in to hit a neckbreaker on Tanahashi for a two-count, while Naito tagged in to keep it going, only to get caught with a grounded Dragon screw after a missed enziguiri.

Umino tagged in next, drilling through Naito with a missile dropkick, then took SANADA outside with a tijeras. BUSHI’s slammed and met with a running uppercut as a Fisherman suplex almost put Naito away. A STF followed from Shota, as BUSHI and SANADA wandered in to make a save… but got caught in a Muto Figure Four and a Tanahashi cloverleaf before Naito got to the ropes to break up the hold that mattered here.

Naito recovers with an inverted atomic drop, then a neckbreaker to Umino, before BUSHI came in for a missile dropkick to Shota. BUSHI escaped a reverse DDT as a Parade of Moves broke out, leading to a Shining Wizard from Muto… before a Death Rider from Shota got the win in a decent enough trios match, with Shota getting the W perhaps being the most surprising part of it all. ***¼

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Master Wato vs. Hiromu Takahashi vs. El Desperado vs. Taiji Ishimori (c)
Somewhere Stateside, KUSHIDA’s still waiting for that title shot he had to forfeit last year due to illness…

Ishimori powders to the outside at the bell as this one started out hot, quickly breaking down into a series of battling roll-ups as Chris Charlton mentioned something about a backstage fight. I had to cackle when Gino asked “what’s Kenny done now?” (it’s turned out that there was a confrontation between LIJ and Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Kongo faction)

As for this match, things stalled a little as Ishimori headed onto the walkway, baiting in Desperado, Wato and Hiromu as they crashed and burned on the ramp. Ishimori runs back to the ring to try and take a 3-way count-out, but that led to all three diving back in at 19. We’re back in with duelling submissions as Hiromu gave Wato the D, while Desperado tried to make Ishimori tap to Numero Dos… but Ishimori broke free and prevented anyone from tapping.

Kicks from Wato have Hiromu in the ropes, ahead of a tijeras… but Ishimori trips up Wato to prevent a dive, only to get caught with a tope con giro from Desperado as we’re all back on the outside. Wato adds a flip senton, while Hiromu’s back senton off the top completes the set. That starts another count-out tease, but Hiromu and Wato make it back inside as Wato’s drilled into the corner, sparking a Parade of Moves… ending with Hiromu escaping a TTD and countering back with a pop-up powerbomb.

Ishimori picks it up again with a reverse DDT to Hiromu, before a Guitarra de Angel from Desperado took out the champion. Wato stops a Pinche Loco, wiping out Despy with a head kick before he got punched out instead. All four men are left laying, but they beat the standing ten-count as Wato caught Ishimori with a Recientemente… and let go of the cover?!

Wato heads up top to go for the RPP, but Desperado blocks it as we now built to a Tower of Doom, sparked by Hiromu, who nearly won with the powerbomb on Ishimori. Desperado broke that up, then punched out Hiromu ahead of a Pinche Loco… a second one’s countered into a Time Bomb for a near-fall, before Wato came back for Recientemente… with Ishimori pulling out the referee to save the match.

With no referee, Ishimori lays out Wato with a chairshot to the back… before he threw the ref back into the ring. Wato escapes a Bloody Cross, as Hiromu this time broke up the cover on another Recientemente as hell was fixing to freeze over. A bridging German suplex gets Wato closer to the win, before some headscissors from Wato were caught and turned into Time Bomb II as Hiromu took home the win. Man, they had me BITING on those near-falls for Wato, who’s absolutely going to get there one day… but I really wasn’t a fan of how this was a backdrop for chatter on the KONGO/LIJ angle to start. ***¾

IWGP United States Championship: Kenny Omega vs. Will Ospreay (c)
It’s the first part of the double main event, and this one has that real “big fight feel.” A proper dream match, at least for some. Ospreay’s gone back to “Elevated” for his ring music here, with the rest of the United Empire on the smoke-filled stage almost like a boy band. I’ll get crucified for that…

Kenny sidestepped a charging Ospreay at the bell, as things looked to settle down early on with a side headlock on the mat from Omega. Ospreay’s out, and kipped up from a shoulder tackle, before a cartwheel and a dropkick took Kenny outside for a plancha. Omega’s hurled into the guard rails, before Kenny got some retribution as he shoved Ospreay off the apron and into the bars.

Back inside, a Finlay roll from Omega led to the moonsault out of the corner for a two-count, before he hurled Ospreay into the corner pad. Omega removes a corner pad behind the ref’s back, then put the boots to Ospreay… including one that sent Ospreay back-first into the exposed corner. There’s the target for Omega, as a backbreaker gets a two-count, while knees to the ribs led to Ospreay cutting off Omega with a Cobra Twist.

Ospreay’s hiptossed away by Omega, but came back with a running kick and a Stundog Millionaire. Staying in control, Ospreay’s springboard forearm adds a two-count as the pair began to trade chops, leading to a step-up enziguiri from Ospreay. Things head onto the apron as Ospreay teased a Storm Breaker, but the pair trade strikes instead, leading to an Ospreay superkick before Omega grabbed the ropes to avoid an OsCutter onto the edge of the ring. Ow.

Omega drops down and begins to look under the ring… quickly pulling out a table, which he threw onto Ospreay’s back ahead of a double stomp literally through the table to the back. Fighting back, Ospreay throws Omega into the guard rails, then suplexed him onto the back of the still-folded table, ahead of a corkscrew moonsault off the top to Kenny on the floor.

Back inside, a flying forearm to the back of Omega’s head gets Ospreay a two-count, while an OsCutter’s blocked like it was a Gun Stun, allowing Omega to crack Ospreay with a V-Trigger and a reverse ‘rana. An over-the-knee fisherman brainbuster earned a near-fall for Omega, who kept his focus on Ospreay’s lower back and kidneys with forearms.

On the top rope, Omega elbowed away at Ospreay’s neck as he teed up for an avalanche Dragon suplex… but Ospreay flips out and landed a corkscrew kick instead. An OsCutter followed seconds later for a near-fall, with Ospreay then adding a Cheeky Nando’s as Omega was stuffed into the corner. The pair fight in the corner some more, with Ospreay chopping Omega down to the apron… before an attempted one-man Spanish Fly ended with Omega instead countering with a DDT off the top rope to the exposed corner. Holy hell…

Ospreay’s come up red from that, having laid in a puddle of blood as his bid to beat the count-out was stopped by Omega’s dropkick through the ropes. That sends Ospreay to the barriers, with Omega following up with a tope con giro to boot. Ospreay’s marked up on his sides as well from that top rope DDT, as Omega proceeded to throw Ospreay through the remnants of that table from earlier.

Back inside, a spike piledriver, then the snap Dragon suplex followed, as Omega continued to rain down blows on Ospreay, leading to a leaping Jay Driller that would have won it, had Ospreay not gotten a foot on the ropes. Ospreay’s again sent through the remnants of the table, before something off the top rope was stopped as Ospreay staggered and crotched Omega in the ropes.

Ospreay tries for a top rope ‘rana, but Omega pulled him down into the same exposed corner… following with a diving V-Trigger to the back of Ospreay’s head, before they went back up top with Omega teasing an avalanche One Winged Angel… which turned into an avalanche Croyt’s Wrath. F***!

A V-Trigger is next for a near-fall, before Omega eventually fired up Ospreay into responding with Kawada-ish kicks. A snap V-Trigger lands, but Ospreay flips out into a sit-out powerbomb as the crowd came unglued for another two-count at the half hour mark. The Chelsea Grin’s next from Ospreay, then a Hidden Blade… and an Obvious Blade… before the OsCutter out of the corner planted Omega for a near-fall.

Omega blocks a Storm Breaker, but a One Winged Angel’s countered into a roll-up… then a Styles Clash… before a running Hidden Blade to the face got another two-count. A Storm Breaker is next, but Omega slips out and countered with a V-Trigger… only for a short Hidden Blade to the face to take Omega down… but Omega’s got Ospreay’s wrist, as the pair tee off on each other with strikes.

Omega changes the pace with a German suplex, bridging for a near-fall, before he measured up for one more V-Trigger. Ospreay spits at Omega, but gets the knee anyway before a One Winged Angel got the win. With matches like that, New Japan will be “back” in no time – it delivered exactly what you expected (for better or for worse, depending on your tastes). In all the drama, Ospreay fell just short of defeating the returning hero Omega… who gets to retain the bragging rights over Ospreay for a little longer. As long as they don’t go the Jay White route from two years ago, you’d have to think there’s plenty of juice in rematches here. *****

Good luck following that…

IWGP World Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White (c)
Okada won the World title at last year’s Wrestle Kingdom… but lost to White at Dominion back in June.

This one started off slowly, as you’d expect, with White “melting” into the ropes before things inevitably headed outside, with Okada looking to chase away Gedo at ringside. The distraction sorta worked, with White able to hit a back suplex as Okada returned to the ring, before White went to the eyes of Okada.

Heading outside, White charges Okada into the guard rails, then bounced him off the side of the ring with a Gourdbuster. OOF. Back inside, Okada’s hung up in the ropes as White followed up with a half-hatch suplex into the corner pad for a two-count. Chops follow as White kept shouting “too” for something that never caught on, ahead of a back body drop from Okada.

A snap DDT followed as Okada bought himself some breathing room, following up with a flapjack after White was taken into the ropes. White sidesteps a leaping back elbow into the corner and keeps Okada there with some shoulder charges, before a switcheroo from Okada saw him lift White up top… and dropkick him down to the floor.

Heading towards the aisle, Gedo tries to distract Okada… but instead took his half of a double DDT, before Okada added a lofty missile dropkick back in the ring. White snapped back into things with a Complete Shot, then a deadlift German suplex and a Blade Buster for a two-count. Retaining control, White hits a Kiwi Krusher, then looked to pull Okada up for a sleeper suplex… only to get backed into the corner… so he charged back out with a chop block to Okada’s knee.

White teases a Tanahashi Tap Out (surely a OTO here?), but Okada pushes free before he just walked through a series of chops from White. A dropkick in response dumps the champion, before they teased finishers… leading to a Money Clip from Okada. That leads to a tombstone from Okada, then a spinning Rainmaker before Okada moved back to the Money Clip.

Frothing at the mouth, White’s checked by the referee before he dove to the ropes to force the break. Gedo gets up on the apron to stop a dive from Okada, prompting boos from the crowd… as Okada then knocked him down and hit a flip senton off the top rope into the pair of them anyway. Back inside, Okada gets into gear as he slammed White, then headed up top for an elbow drop at the 20-minute mark… only for White to sink to his arse to avoid a Rainmaker.

Okada pulls White up and trades elbows, which knocked the champion back down. Gedo gets into the ring to create a distraction, but White’s low blow is avoided as Okada got spat at. It makes him lose focus, allowing White to hit a uranage instead, before a sleeper suplex was switched up, with White lifting Okada up over the top rope for a throw to the outside.

A quick return to the ring allowed White to plant Okada with the sleeper suplex, before a Regalplex almost led to the win. White goes for a Blade Runner, but Okada slips out for a German suplex, before he backslid White in for a series of Rainmakers. Another Okada dropkick sets up for a landslide tombstone… only for a Rainmaker to get snapped into a Blade Runner as White came achingly close to retaining.

Okada’s pulled up for another Blade Runner, but White fights off Okada’s attempt to escape, landing his “Jaymaker” clothesline. The crowd boos White for the Rainmaker pose, before a ripcord Blade Runner got countered into a Rainmaker for a near-fall for Okada. Both men are on their knees, but it’s Okada who seems to have a little more in his strikes as we sailed past the half-hour mark, with White finding his second wind when it came to chopping Okada down to the mat.

Almost in panicked tears, White told Okada he’s “not going to take this from me,” but Okada knocks him back into the ropes… then cut-off White’s attempted counter with an enziguiri. White slips out of a Cobra Flowsion, but couldn’t avoid an Okada Blade Runner. Cobra Flowsion followed, before one more Rainmaker proved to be too much for White to withstand. For all the tropes, and the match it had to follow, this was a pretty good main event all told – even if the spectre of Okada winning the title on this show was a little too expected, given the anniversary and Inoki tie-ins. ****¼

We’ve got some post-match stuff after Jay White had exited stage left… with Shingo Takagi heading out to challenge the man who beat him for that same title at the Tokyo Dome a year earlier. Shingo reckoned winning the KOPW title last year is more than enough to qualify him for a shot, before he left and allowed Okada to celebrate his newly-won title, before they closed out the show with one more “ichi, ni, san, DA!”

That’s more like it! While a lot of the undercard felt like it narrowly missed the mark – with ten minutes-or-so bell to bell falling just outside the sweet spot – the first cheering Tokyo Dome crowd since 2020 made this the first major New Japan show in years that felt like a return to the times of old was near. Ospreay/Omega was a home run that was blasted through the roof of the Tokyo Dome – just as we expected… and sure, not everything landed, and there’s a lot of work-in-progress stuff here, with names expected to leave and new alignments to be forged, but it really does feel like the era of clap crowds is almost at an end. Thank Christ.