Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito clashed once again in the main event at the Tokyo Dome, as WrestleKingdom 14 ended with someone going home with both belts… while Jushin Thunder Liger closed out his storied career.
We’ve another packed crowd, and this time there’s just the one pre-show match: a gauntlet match for the NEVER trios titles… commentary comes from Kevin Kelly, Gino Gambino and Chris Charlton.
NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship Gauntlet: Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI & Robbie Eagles vs. Suzuki-gun (Taichi, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL & Shingo Takagi) vs. Togi Makabe, Toru Yano & Ryusuke Taguchi (c)
We opened with the Bullet Club trio against the CHAOS trio of Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI and Robbie Eagles. Hey, is that Bailey Matthews out as a Young Lion? That’s a bit of a regal move…
The first “match” has a jump start as we settled into Eagles getting bounced by Fale. A Grenade quickly follows, for a wacky near-fall, before Eagles slipped out of a Bad Luck Fall and rolled through to a tag as YOSHI-HASHI superkicked Fale away. Chase and Ishii come in, but it’s double-teaming with Yujiro that helps as Ishii has to kick out of a PK early on. Eagles returns to save Ishii from a package piledriver, landing an enziguiri on Chase before a pescado wipes out Fale on the outside. Ishii recovers and brainbusters Chase, and that’s our first leg over. It started out wonky but picked up as the Suzuki-gun trio came out next.
Ishii’s isolated from the off as he has to fight back on some triple-teaming, then kick out from Taichi’s Axe bomber as Eagles and YOSHI-HASHI had seemingly disappeared into thin air. Finally Eagles comes in, but gets booted outside, with YOSHI-HASHI suffering a similar fate as Taichi ripped off his trousers… then traded forearms with Ishii. A clothesline from Ishii knocked both men down as he looked for a tag out, with Eagles and Desperado coming in. Robbie’s pinpoint dropkick takes out Despy’s knee, but he can’t follow up as Kanemaru’s in, landing a reverse DDT for another near-fall. Eagles avoids a Deep Impact DDT, before endless switches led to a roll-up, with Eagles snatching the pin. By the numbers…
LIJ’s third out, and man, the pre-show entrances are so bare bones. No ring gear, no nothing! BUSHI and Eagles start, but it’s all BUSHI as he lands a missile dropkick, then a neckbreaker before EVIL came in to batter Eagles with a Bronco buster for a near-fall. Shingo’s in to chop through Eagles, but Robbie quickly strikes back with a Turbo Backpack as YOSHI-HASHI tagged into try and get the win. A Head Hunter drops Shingo, who’s then hung in the ropes for a dropkick to the back, before the pair traded lariats, with Shingo edging ahead. EVIL and Ishii tag in to renew their skirmishes from 2019, as the ring begins to fill with LIJ looking to steal a pin, only for YOSHI-HASHI to dive over the ref to break up a cover. BUSHI nearly kills himself on a tope, while EVIL and Ishii trade more strikes, leading to a lariat and a Darkness Falls for the elimination. Man, that’s two messed up pins, but at least EVIL hits Everything is EVIL after to tell us what the deal was.
Out come the champions for the final fall, which Yano tried to steal with an instant roll-up on EVIL. The usual shtick follows, turnbuckle pads off, roll-up for a near-fall, before Shingo trips Yano to turn things around. Shingo avoids being thrown into the corner before suplexing Yano for a near-fall as commentary began to poke fun at referee Jeremy Marcus. Makabe’s in to go for BUSHI, but EVIL can only delay things as he took a clothesline ahead of those mounted punches. BUSHI kicks out of a Northern Lights suplex at two, then DDTs Makabe as Shingo returns to trade lariats with Makabe. The Pumping Bomber misses, but Makabe’s clothesline does not, as Taguchi comes in to try the Three Amigos… and eventually gets it. Taguchi telegraphs a Bummer Ye and gets dropkicked in the arse as the ring fills, then clears, as the Bummer Ye strikes… before a Dodon from Taguchi led to a near-fall! From the kick-out, Taguchi rolls in for an ankle lock, but Shingo rolls free, taking Taguchi into some BUSHI mist before a Pumping Bomber and Made in Japan spiked Taguchi for the win! We have new champions on the pre-show from a gauntlet that was utterly forgettable despite stretching to nearly half an hour. It’s a shame the thing most will remember from this is the two ref botches, but outside of that there were some decent flashes here, with Eagles looking good in his time in. **½
The mooted 2020 schedule announcement doesn’t air, so we’ve got a half-hour break before the main show…
Hiromu Takahashi & Ryu Lee vs. Jushin Thunder Liger & Naoki Sano
Liger the Final. Enemies from the past teaming up to battle their modern day equivalents… and no, I can’t see Hiromu wearing that peacock coat on the village shows!
Yoshiaki Fujiwara got Flight of the Valkyries as his music, which had a lot of people wondering… no, it’s not Bryan Danielson. Liger and Hiromu start us off, as Ryu Lee clearly doesn’t give a toss about his new name just yet. A tie-up has Liger in the ropes, before the favour was returned, as Liger proceeded to take Hiromu down for a seated surfboard. Liger plays the hits, pulling Hiromu into a Romero special, before Hiromu tagged in Ryu Lee… then stormed the apron to knock Sano off as Liger got double-teamed. Dualling low dropkick drew boos, as Liger found himself in the wrong corner, with Hiromu pulling him into a Fujiwara armbar. I mean, the guy’s RIGHT THERE, Hiromu…
Chops from Hiromu have Liger down, but he overcomes the latest spell of double-teams with tiltawhirl backbreakers before Sano tanned in and flew in with a missile dropkick. The second dropkick isn’t quite as high, but just as effective, before he opted to trade elbows with Ryu Lee, ending with a leaping knee from Lee. Sano’s back with a clothesline, before tags got us back to Liger and Hiromu, with the newly-crowned IWGP Junior champion pounding on Liger in the corner… until the veteran replied with a stiff powerbomb. Liger throws some palm strikes from above, before a Ligerbomb attempt was cut-off by Ryu Lee, who took him outside for a tope con giro… but Liger and Sano sidestep as Hiromu took the brunt of it. Back inside, a powerbomb nearly gets the win, before Liger popped up from a German suplex to land a Shotei! The brainbuster follows, stacking up Hiromu for a two-count, with Lee breaking it up before taking Sano outside for a tope into the guard rails.
Liger’s still legal though, but gets caught with a Falcon arrow for a near-fall, before sandwich knee strikes almost ended things. From there, a death valley driver into the corner waits for Liger, before Liger rolls out of a Time Bomb… before a clothesline cut off his Shotei attempt. One Time Bomb later, and that’s it. The career of Jushin Thunder Liger comes to an end. Don’t be sad it’s over, be happy we all got to live it for thirty-plus years. ***½
The English feed died here, as Liger gave a farewell speech… his retirement ceremony is tomorrow at New Years Dash, and you’d better believe the tears we didn’t get here will be there.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) vs. Bullet Club (El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori) (c)
SHO & YOH get the big match entrance, and understandably they look emotional. ELP boots the rope into poor Gabriel Kidd, who’s been put through the wars this weekend… and we get going with dualling dropkicks from the challengers, taking the champions outside for topes con giro!
In the ring, hiptosses and a leg splitter had Ishimori rolling for cover, before ELP powdered again… which led to them teasing a walkout. They return as SHO gets caught with a kick in the apron, before Ishimori charged him off the platform and through a guard rails before Ishimori returned to hit the baseball slide German suplex. Ishimori has to roll through a 450 splash before he rolled into a neck twister on SHO led to the barrage of back rakes, including an impressive rope-walk moonsault into a back rake. That’s a whole new level of dickishness…
Phantasmo reverts to form with a crossbody, a Quebrada in the ring… then a tope to wipe out Rocky at ringside as YOH dives in to break up the pin. He’s back again as a double-team Gas Pedal threatened to crush SHO’s manhood, but the champions just take YOH into the Tree of Woe himself as they go back to the pedal. Eventually SHO got free to spear Ishimori, as YOH came in with dropkicks to take ELP down in mid-air. Double-teaming threatens to stop YOH, but he throws Ishimori into ELP before a pescado wiped out the champions. Ishimori’s back with a handspring enziguiri, before ELP’s whirlibird neckbreaker landed after some help from an Ishimori knee. The champions look to finish off SHO with a 3K, but he counters into a Destroyer on ELP, before a clothesline from SHO took Ishimori out.
SHO works over ELP with kicks before Phantasmo blocks Shock Arrow and rolled SHO into a Styles Clash. That woke up the Tokyo Dome. SHO kicks out at two though, before Rocky interfered to stop ELP from using a belt shot. Phantasmo goes for a low blow, but SHO’s wearing a cup, so it has no effect! Ishimori runs in to take a 3K, as Phantasmo eats a Shock Arrow, a Dragon Suplex before a SPIKE SHOCK ARROW puts Phantasmo down! Roppongi 3K are now four-time champions, celebrating to SHO’s 8-bit theme too. Interesting choice. This was a decent enough match, but it had a hard time following the Liger farewell – it wasn’t death, but these teams would have done better in a different spot. ***½
Rev Pro British Heavyweight Championship: SANADA vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (c)
The part of me that goes to Rev Pro shows is kinda dreading this. SANADA’s had Sabre’s number throughout 2019, barring his prior shot at the Rev Pro title last June in Manchester. Tiger Hattori’s here for his final matches in the Tokyo Dome, by the way… his retirement is next month.
We start with standing switches and takedowns between Sabre and SANADA, which led to SANADA teasing an early Paradise Lock, only for Sabre to push out on the way to a stand-off. Sabre’s back in with a strangle hold, which they reverse between themselves as SANADA just copies Sabre’s escapes. SANADA pushes Sabre to the outside, but Zack powders to avoid any potential of a dive, before the pair scrambled into a Cobra twist. Sabre looked to get the rope, but he’s just rolled around for fun by SANADA on the way to a near-fall, before SANADA’s standing moonsault landed him in trouble as Sabre went for an omoplata.
After a rope break, Sabre twists SANADA’s arm between his legs, but a low dropkick gets the challenger back in, as a Dragon screw yanked Sabre to the mat. On the outside, a pescado sees SANADA crash into Sabre, before Sabre’s attempt at a comeback back inside saw him climb into a guillotine. SANADA switches free into a Skull End, swinging Zack around before he crashed and burned on a moonsault… with Sabre rushing in for a diving PK to even things up. Back-and-forth uppercuts looked to have SANADA ahead, but he’s caught with a sunset flip as we began those back-and-forth pins again that almost led to the title change. Sabre nearly nicks a win with a Japanese leg clutch, but has to roll out of a Skull End before he applied an Octopus hold. They counter, counter and counter, with Sabre rolling through a Japanese leg clutch into one of his own… and Britwres is safe! This was a pretty good match, although there were times that SANADA just didn’t look to be at Sabre’s level today. Sabre keeps Britwres alive, at least in Japan! ****
IWGP United States Championship: Juice Robinson vs. Jon Moxley (c)
The match we were meant to get at King of Pro Wrestling back in October, and if you said a year ago that Dean Ambrose would have wrestled twice at the Tokyo Dome in the first week of January 2020, you’d have been laughed at.
Juice dives onto Moxley as he reached ringside, and we start with Moxley going into the guard rails back, then throat-first. Moxley retaliates by shoving Juice into the ring post, before… hey, they restocked the plunder! He sets up a chair, but Juice just sends him into it with a drop toe hold, before a cannonball took Mox out of the chair. They return to the ring, but not for long as Juice is whipped into the corner then back outside. A chair shot’s seemingly ignored as Juice gets taken back inside for some clubbering, with some crossface punches in a camel clutch before he tried to choke out Juice.
Taking Juice into the corner, clothesline and chops keep the challenger at bay, before some biting was broken up with a spinebuster from Juice. A leg lariat gives Juice a little momentum, before a falling powerbomb landed at the second attempt for a near-fall. Some Dusty punches get cut off as Moxley traps Juice in a Figure Four, but Juice drags himself to the rope to force a break. Moxley keeps up though, wrapping Juice’s legs around the ring post ahead of a figure four around the post, before he went for a spot of EVIL baseball… but Juice punches away the chair! Back inside, Juice takes Moxley up top for a superplex, and rolls through to follow up with a Jackhammer for a near-fall. Pulp Friction’s avoided as Moxley counters with a German suplex, but Juice has one of his own as well, only to get taken down with a clothesline from Moxley.
Juice has to fight out of a Death Rider before he almost snatched the win with a lucha roll-up. Moxley riles up Juice some more as the pair trade headbutts, then palm strikes, before Juice got knocked down for the Regal knee. A Left Hand of God stuns Moxley, before a second knocked him down, before Moxley hit back with a pair of Death Riders… and that’s the first title defence secured. Now… is that a sign of wider things for the US title, or is Moxley going to continue the reign that never should have ended last year? A solid little match, but with a day’s build this had a hard time feeling special. ***
OH MY GOD. Minoru Suzuki’s out! We’re getting Kaze ni Nare in the Dome, but first, Suzuki strips off his tracksuit before they slugged it out. A Gotch piledriver lays out Moxley, before Suzuki introduced himself in no uncertain terms. I’m all in on Moxley vs. Suzuki.
NEVER Openweight Championship: Hirooki Goto vs. KENTA (c)
In many people’s minds, this should have been Shibata vs. KENTA, but it’s Goto instead after the events of last year.
We’ve a jump start as Goto took down KENTA while the camera was panning the crowd, and we’re quickly on the outside as KENTA’s trying to powder out. Goto doesn’t let him get far, bringing him back in for a bulldog, before a chinlock had KENTA on the defensive… only for a big boot to take Goto down. Goto gets thrown outside, but pops right back up as KENTA just whips him into the guard rails, as the champion was intent on keeping things on the outside. Goto’s forced to beat a count-out as KENTA tried to snatch the win… and he’s tossed straight back outside again. You know, the last time KENTA was in front of a crowd this big, it was for a battle royal at WrestleMania. Maybe he’s just harkening back to those days?
Eventually KENTA stops with the Berzerker treatment and begins to wear down Goto with a side chinlock, before Goto got free and hit a discus clothesline. Now, how about something resembling anger, Goto? He’s taken into the corner for forearms from KENTA as the pair went back-and-forth, and finally Goto’s showing something resembling aggression as he decked KENTA with an elbow! Goto pulls him up so he can take him into the corner for a spinning heel kick and a back suplex for a near-fall. KENTA’s back with a tornado hotshot and a flying clothesline for a near-fall, before KENTA’s search of a Busaiku knee ended with him running into an ushigoroshi. Another quick turnaround sees KENTA trap Goto with a Game Over, but they’re too close to the ropes as Goto gets the break.
KENTA doesn’t let up though, and crashes into Goto in the corner with a hesitation dropkick, following in with a stomp off the top for a two-count. A ducked Goto clothesline ends up as a sleeperhold for KENTA, who adds a PK and a Busaiku knee for a near-fall… Goto blocks a Go 2 Sleep and replies with a headbutt, but his follow-up clothesline is just absorbed before a second finally put KENTA down. Goto looks for a mid kick, but KENTA blocks… and perhaps now’s the time for both men to be swinging for the fences as they go hell for leather before Goto hits a GTW for a near-fall. A GTR quickly follows, and that’s it. Until the finishing stretch, this was very much underwhelming – it felt a lot like KENTA was wrestling a broom, such was the lack of aggression that Goto brought to this supposed blood-feud until that ending. ***¾
Now we get the schedule announcement for 2020. Some headlines: The New Beginning in Sapporo on February 1st and 2nd… then in Osaka on February 9… the 48th anniversary show on March 3… Sakura Genesis on March 31. In new dates: Best of the Super Junior 27 ends June 6 in Tokyo, as Dominion moved to June 14. G1 Climax 30 ends on October 16, 17 and 18… and that’s your lot. No international dates here…
Jay White vs. Kota Ibushi
Time for the Double Gold Dash wooden spoon match… or as they’re framing it here, a match to decide the next contender for the IWGP title. I guess that means Jay White’s winning if you go by New Japan’s “fail up” booking?
Ibushi gets a golden shower… of confetti for his entrance, and we start with an attempted distraction. Referee Marty Asami somehow missed Gedo getting into the ring, but Ibushi didn’t, as he’s chased away before a barrage of kicks had White reeling. White clings to the ropes to avoid an Irish whip, before he took Ibushi onto the apron and knocked him down, with Kota landing chest-first on the railings before he fell off the platform the ring had been built on. That looked awful. White stays on top of Ibushi, throwing his lifeless body into the railings again before dumping him onto the apron. Back in the ring, White grounds Ibushi with a side headlock, but Kota gets free and hits a ‘rana to buy him some time. A pescado wipes White out on the floor, before a missile dropkick sends White back into the corner, as a springboard moonsault followed for a near-fall, with Ibushi’s thighs landing high up on White.
A DDT from White gets him back in it, before his attempt at a uranage just turned into an old-fashioned hair pull. Kota sandbags himself to block a Blade Buster, before he looked for a package tombstone, eventually spiking a wriggling White in the middle of the ring. White tries to strike back, but he’s swatted down by Ibushi, then again as Kota had seemingly slipped back into Terminator mode. Those elbows seemingly emptied White’s fuel tank, as he was on the proverbial jelly legs before a diving clothesline just spun the former IWGP champion to the mat. White eventually creates an opening, using the ref for cover before he ragdolled Ibushi with a German suplex, with a Blade Buster and a Kiwi Krusher following pretty soon afterwards. A sleeper suplex eventually follows, before Ibushi was sent onto the apron from where he tries to springboard in… but Jay pushes away the legs as Kota landed hard on the rope.
White ups the ante with an avalanche uranage for a near-fall, before spiking Kota again with a sleeper suplex. Ibushi really hates his neck… but loves his old friend, as he countered a Blade Runner with a V-Trigger out of nowhere. Ibushi switches a Bomaye into a roll-up, before a German suplex gets a near-fall… the Bomaye lands moments after, as he then signalled for a Kamigoye. White pushes away, but can’t avoid a head kick before Kamigoye’s avoided as White pulls Kota into the ref for a ridiculous bump. In comes Gedo, like clockwork, but Kota’s taking his time pulling himself back up to his feet… so Gedo hits him in the back. Ibushi shrugs it off and responds by beating Gedo to the outside, before a closed fist to White, then a Last Ride powerbomb stacked up White for a visual pin, as Marty Asami’s still on the outside.
The ref’s back in as White sandbags himself to avoid a Kamigoye, like a child refusing to move. Not to worry, Kota kicks him some more, then lands the Kamigoye as Gedo pulls out the ref to keep the BS up. Out comes Gedo’s brass knuckles, but Ibushi stops him before Ibushi had a chair THROWN off his face. He’s straight back up to take the brass knuckles from Gedo, and the ref’s back in as New Japan’s answer to classic TNA Jeff Jarrett looked to grab the win. A Bloody Sunday DDT drops Ibushi, before a Blade Runner stacks Ibushi on his head one last time… and that’s the win. It’s the Golden Star who goes 0-2 this weekend, as Jay White fails up into IWGP title contention. This was what it was – the crowd seemed to struggle to connect with Jay White once again, and we had all the Gedo bells and whistles that seem to accompany these matches. Kota Ibushi never gave up, but in the end the odds were just too great. Interestingly, this was Bullet Club’s only win of the weekend, so take that for what you will. ***½
Before the next match, we have a killer promo video of Hiroshi Tanahashi doing his best impression of middle-age Goth Chris Jericho…
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Chris Jericho
They threw in a stipulation here that came around via a mis-translation – if Tanahashi wins, he gets a shot at Jericho’s AEW title. They didn’t pay for Judas though, but the AEW title belt was worn, so make of that what you will in terms of the rumoured AEW/New Japan involvement.
Jericho’s flipping off the crowd as they chant for Tanahashi, and we have Jericho winding up the crowd after a simple lock-up. Jericho looks to work over Tanahashi’s arm, but an armdrag gets the Ace ahead, only for him to telegraph a back body drop. Tanahashi recovers as the pair trade hammerlocks, leading to Tanahashi pulling a 1997 Jericho with a one-footed pin that the AEW champ did not appreciate. A dropkick from Jericho takes Tanahashi down to the outside, before he swung the ringside gate into Tanahashi’s head a la Chyna and Mankind. More guard rail goodness follows, with Tanahashi getting thrown onto the English commentary desk, which led to the English feed again going silent, as Jericho dumped Tanahashi with a DDT off the table. Are we sure Erick Stevens isn’t coordinating this?
Back in the ring, Tanahashi and Jericho trade forearms as the English crew were sorting themselves out, only for Jericho to pull Tanahashi into a butterfly backbreaker. Tanahashi fights back after being forced to skin the cat, landing a leaping forearm before Jericho pulled Red Shoes Unno into the path of another forearm. With no ref, we of course get shenanigans – instantly starting with a low blow from Jericho, who then whips Tanahashi with the weightlifting belt. A low blow from Tanahashi equalises things, before a bulldog from Jericho ended up with him getting thrown into the corner. Tanahashi builds on that with a flip senton, before he pushed away a Lionsault, sending Jericho crashing and burning to the outside.
Tanahashi follows with some high risk stuff – a High Fly Flow to the floor! That led to Jericho having to beat the 20-count, but he’s caught in the ropes with Dragon screws and dropkicks, following up with more Dragon screws in the middle of the ring. A High Fly Flow crashes and burns as Jericho gets the knees up, before a Lionsault quickly lands for a near-fall. Jericho keeps going as he pulled Tanahashi into the Walls of Jericho, but Tanahashi endured the hold before coming back with a Slingblade. A random GTR drops Jericho, before Tanahashi struggled to his feet as a High Fly Flow gets countered into a Codebreaker for a near-fall. Tanahashi hits one of his own moments later for a two-count of his own, but Jericho counters a Slingblade and pulls Tanahashi back into a Walls of Jericho, which gets turned into an inside cradle… then a Twist and Shout from Tanahashi.
A Slingblade finally lands for a near-fall, but Tanahashi goes up for another High Fly Flow, which Jericho rolls through on as the Lion Tamer’s applied, giving us an opportunity to see Jericho’s bloodied mouth as he tried to make Tanahashi tap. Jericho leans the Lion Tamer back some more… and that’s all folks. Tanahashi taps out, and the door between AEW and New Japan remains closed. For now. They stayed away from the plunder that we’d seen Jericho use – and while the match was solid, it didn’t really threaten to get into that next gear. The dangling carrot of AEW certainly kept the interest up, but in the end it’s a loss for Tanahashi – whose star has really begun to fall in the last few months based on the Ls he’s taking. ****
IWGP Intercontinental X IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Tetsuya Naito (IC) vs. Kazuchika Okada (HW)
The final of the “Double Gold Dash” sees Naito getting his third crack at Okada in the Tokyo Dome. Is it going to be third time lucky, on the biggest stage possible?
We’ve a split crowd at the bell as we’ve duelling Naito/Okada chants, before the match started with the pair locking up and rolling around in the ropes. When they get free, Okada’s there to drop Naito with a back elbow, before a DDT drew an early near-fall. A slingshot senton keeps Okada ahead, as Naito looked to be struggling to even get into first gear, with a sliding kick by the ropes sending Naito into the corner.
Naito finally finds something, as an armdrag and a dropkick of his own has Okada down in the corner for Combinacion Cabron. A leg sweep drops Okada as Naito took him onto the apron for a hanging neckbreaker, before another neckbreaker back inside gets a near-fall, with Naito not in any rush to stay on top of his man. Some headscissors on the mat have Okada stretched, but he gets free and responds with a front kick to Naito, flipping him to the mat. A kip up from Okada gives him fresh impetus as a flapjack dumps Naito, before a second boot is blocked… only for Okada to come back by rolling through Naito into a neckbreaker slam. The top rope elbow’s next… and you know what’s next… Rainmaker zoom!
A pop-up spinebuster sees Naito keep the door open, following that up with a top rope ‘rana as we somehow crossed the 15 minute mark. Okada elbows away from Gloria and responds with a big shotgun dropkick, before another dropkick sent Naito falling from the middle rope to the floor. That gave Okada an opening, as he drove Naito’s knee into the mats at ringside, before Okada cleared the timekeeper’s table… Okada’s chop block took out Naito’s knee, which then got dropped through the table, as we started the mother of count-out teases with Naito stumbling into the ring at the last possible moment… and into the path of a missile dropkick when he got back to his feet as the crowd were slowly turning towards being pro-Naito. A German suplex is next from Okada, but his bid for an early Rainmaker’s countered into a swinging DDT before Naito took Okada up top for an avalanche reverse ‘rana for a hell of a head drop!
Somehow Okada survives as Naito pushes on… having to make do with a Koppo kick before he leapt into an Okada dropkick! Out of nowhere, Naito rushes in with Destino for a near-fall as I think half of the crowd leapt out of their seats in expectation! A second Destino is blocked as the Okada dropkick cuts off all that momentum… and we’re almost back to square one. The pair trade shots, with the crowd reactions echoing around the Dome before a Destino was countered into a spinning Rainmaker of doom. Another Rainmaker is almost countered, but Okada spikes Naito with a tombstone to stop a Destino, before the Rainmaker landed one final time… and it’s still not enough! We’re starting to kick into the trademark Okada finishing stretch!
Some spittle from Naito doesn’t impress Okada much, so he goes back to throwing the Intercontinental champion’s knee into the mat – his proverbial Achilles heel here. That tactic draws boos from the Tokyo Dome crowd, as Okada just lets the shower of boos cover him ahead of fresh Rainmakers. One more Rainmaker gets countered into Destino, but Naito couldn’t go for the cover straight away, and ends up rolling back the clock as Naito FINALLY lands the Stardust Press after so many years… and STILL Okada doesn’t stay down! Naito has one more push, dropping Okada head-first on a Gloria, then rushes in for Destino… and the man who “almost was irrelevant” at the start of this leaves the Tokyo Dome with both belts! It was his Destiny after all, huh? It’s a weird criticism, but this match almost felt too short, given how long some Okada epics have been before – but it’s not like that matters. Kazuchika Okada, forever the gold standard in New Japan, isn’t the first man to hold double gold in the company, and the new chase for him begins here. *****
Post-match, Naito baits Okada after finally winning in the main event of the Tokyo Dome, then suggested a potential rematch. before he was left for his moment in the sun, with both belts by his side. Interestingly the LIJ roll call was just Naito on his own, and that was the tell as KENTA of all people ran in to spoil the moment, attacking Naito from behind before giving him a PK. I thought Jay White’d won the first shot with the third-place play-off? If he had, KENTA’s usurped him as a Go 2 Sleep meant that almost the final shot from the Tokyo Dome was KENTA, sitting on Naito, holding the belts aloft as BUSHI (of all people) ran out to check on Naito, as LIJ still waited for their uninterrupted moment of glory.
Night two of WrestleKingdom had a noticeably lower crowd than the prior night, and in some sense, that decision to go for an Okada/Naito main event on less than 24 hours notice maybe didn’t pay off as some hoped it would. Especially since they’ve been kept apart in singles matches for over two years, and really only had one “warm up” tag in the build-up to this weekend. Then again, drawing 70,000 to the Tokyo Dome across two nights – and the inevitable slew of merchandise sales will likely mean this double-header continues the trends that New Japan has set when it comes to spreading out the big shows. Which unfortunately also meant a watered down set of cards – those undercard tags from yesterday weren’t present here, but perhaps they ought to have been, as the crowd was seemingly out of it early on, reeling from Liger’s retirement match. They eventually got back into it, but with any luck these double-day Dome shows are an exception, rather than the rule, as we’ll be waiting until 2025 before January 4 falls on a Saturday again.
If you weren’t watching WrestleKingdom live, you’ll be forgiven for cherry picking from the two shows – but unless you’re being very selective, truth be told, there really isn’t that much that you can give a hard pass to. All in all, a very good brace of events that wrapped up New Japan’s year… before it all starts off again with New Year Dash tomorrow, and the Fantasticamania tour later in the week. No rest for the wicked!