Kazuchika Okada is back in the main event at the Tokyo Dome as he looked to dismiss Will Ospreay’s challenge for the IWGP World Heavyweight title.
Tomoaki Honma, Togi Makabe & Yuji Nagata pinned Gedo, Jado & Bad Luck Fale in 6:40 (**)
Master Wato, Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan submitted El Desperado, TAKA Michinoku & Yoshinobu Kanemaru in 9:23 (**½)
Shingo Takagi, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI pinned DOUKI, Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi in 10:28 (***)
Robbie Eagles & Tiger Mask submitted Rocky Romero & Ryusuke Taguchi and El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori in 12:07 to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship (***¼)
Saya Kamitani & Tam Nakano pinned Starlight Kid & Mayu Iwatani in 9:14 (***½)
Minoru Suzuki pinned Toru Yano, CIMA & Chase Owens in 6:08 to win the Provisional KOPW 2022 Trophy (**½)
SHO, EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi pinned YOH, Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI in 9:37 to retain the NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship (*¾)
SANADA pinned Great-O-Khan in 13:21 (**¾)
Tetsuya Naito pinned Jeff Cobb in 15:34 (***¾)
Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned KENTA in 22:40 to win the IWGP United States Championship (***¾)
Kazuchika Okada pinned Will Ospreay in 32:52 to retain the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship (****¾)
Watching on-delay with remote English commentary from Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton who aren’t and are in Japan respectively… we’re at the Tokyo Dome for the second night of WrestleKingdom as we wrap up the ownership of the IWGP title… But first, we’ve had three pre-show matches added to the card.
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Gedo & Jado) vs. Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Yuji Nagata
Our first pre-show match has a jump start, as Togi Makabe’s worn down in the early going by Fale, then Jado.
Fale, Gedo and Jado stand on Makabe in the ropes, but Makabe eventually gets free and hits a double clothesline as he tagged out to Nagata. Kicks from Nagata lead to an enziguiri on Fale, but an Exploder’s eventually stopped by Jado ahead of a stalling dropkick from Nagata.
Jado and Honma come in next, but the Bullet Club trio all stay in the ring… Jado tries to bring in a Kendo stick, but Makabe clears it away as a sandwich of lariats dropped Gedo for a two-count. Another clothesline from Makabe takes Fale outside, as Honma then took down Gedo for a Kokeshi off the middle rope for the win. Short and inoffensive, but there wasn’t much to this. **
Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Master Wato vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & TAKA Michinoku)
After Desperado beat Hiromu yesterday to retain the junior title… is this them setting up Master Wato?
Wato went for Desperado at the bell, taking him down for some kicks before Tenzan and Kojima came in for Mongolian chops on Desperado. A slingshot elbow/falling headbutt followed for a two-count on Desperado, while a brainbuster kept the pressure up on the junior champ.
A kick on the apron from Kanemaru distracts Tenzan, as he’s sent outside and into the side of the ring. That sparked some brawling from all six men around ringside, before TAKA tagged in to grind his fist into Tenzan’s head as some triple-teaming nearly put Tenzan away. A Mountain Bomb stops Kanemaru in his tracks, as Kojima came in for some Machine Gun chops to TAKA and Kanemaru.
TAKA takes a DDT, Kanemaru a Koji cutter, before the pair combined to kick down Kojima. Master Wato tags in from there, going up against Desperado. A spinebuster from Desperado sets up Guitarra de Angel for a near-fall, before Kojima and Tenzan caught Desperado with a TenKoji cutter as a Tenzan Tombstone Driver nearly got Wato the unlikely win.
The ring fills and clears from there, as Wato proceeded to miss a RPP. He’s met with a Desperado spear, but slips out of a Pinche Loco and rolled Desperado into a modified Anaconda Vise – dubbed the Bendabar – for the submission. Yup, they’re doing Wato vs. Desperado I’d guess, which is certainly a way to go after you teased Desperado vs. El LIndaman after last night. **½
Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr., Taichi & DOUKI) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI)
The pre-show ends with a battle of the defeated – with former tag champions, the former IWGP World Heavyweight champion and the defeated junior title challenger all in the mix here.
DOUKI and BUSHI start us off, before tags brought us to a tease of Hiromu and ZSJ. Hiromu’s leapfrog gets pulled down, but he’s back with a shoulder tackle before his headscissors got countered into a heel hook as Sabre tried to make Hiromu tap. Hiromu gets trapped in the corner for some boot choking, before a throat hold from Taichi kept Hiromu down.
An arm-trapped Dragon screw gives Hiromu enough time to tag out to Shingo, who charges in with clotheslines before he suplexed Sabre away. Taichi’s enziguiri gets him time, but the pair hit dualling clotheslines ahead of an Axe Bomber from Taichi. DOUKI gets the tag back in as he tried to snatch an unlikely win, but his search for a German suplex led to him hitting a quick enziguiri.
Shingo’s low bridged to the outside by DOUKI as LIJ were set up for a wild back senton off the top to the pile for the floor. Back inside, DOUKI hits Daybreak for a near-fall, before Shingo’s DDT and sliding lariat nearly won the match… Sabre runs into a noshigami as a Parade of Moves breaks out, ending with Hiromu and Shingo double-teaming DOUKI en route to a Last of the Dragon for the win. A decent multi-man tag, with Shingo getting back in the winning column – but this was pretty much New Year Dash fodder. ***
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Mega Coaches (Ryusuke Taguchi & Rocky Romero) vs. Bullet Club (El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori) vs. Flying Tiger (Robbie Eagles & Tiger Mask) (c)
A lot of this build centred around Ryusuke Taguchi’s dreams to win the junior tag team titles – so he could be the 69th junior champion and half of the 69th junior tag team champs. Nice. Meanwhile, ELP’s programmed his light-up vest to say “ROBBIE EAGLES SUCKS LOL” while Eagles came out in a feathered eagle mask…
We’ve a jump start as the camera misses El Phantasmo hitting Tiger Mask with a Sudden Death. Hip attacks clear the way as Robbie Eagles ends up getting thrown into Taguchi’s arsem then slingshotted into it as we seemed to be working under lucha rules here. ELP boots Eagles in the midsection as the Bullet Club tandem began their back rakes, before Rocky Romero hit a Doomsday device… only to have his foot stomped on by Phantasmo.
ELP’s boot wrecks Taguchi’s hand next as the boot was well and truly loaded. It didn’t cause problems when he began to rope-walk… but Robbie Eagles made sure he couldn’t go too far before a springboard ‘rana took down ELP. A tope con giro wipes out Ishimori in the aisle as we continue to uncork dives, leading to Tiger Mask hitting a butterfly superplex on the Canadian.
A Tiger Driver followed to ELP, before a load of tiltawhirl backbreakers cleared the field. That led to a Ron Miller Special from Eagles on Rocky, but it’s broken up as ELP’s flung to the outside by Tiger Mask’s back body drop. Hip attacks from Taguchi try to even things up, as he and Rocky wipe out Eagles ahead of the Black Hole Vacation – the wheelbarrow Codebreaker – for a near-fall.
Rocky goes for a Shiranui, but it’s countered into an assisted Cipher UTAKI by Ishimori, who then flew in with a knee drop for the UFO whirlibird neckbreaker by Phantasmo. ELP heads back up for a rope-walk Thunder Kiss splash that went 3/4s of the way cross the ring for a near-fall.
Eagles comes in to redirect a Sudden Death, which wipes out Ishimori, before everyone ganged up on ELP. He’s dropped with a pair of enziguiri as the good guys take off his boot rather than go for a pin… Eagles takes it off… and finds the boot was loaded with some metal. So THAT’S what happened to the funky oven glove! The referee disqualifies El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori… so the match continues as a straight up 2 vs. 2 match as ELP’s carted away.
With Phantasmo and Ishimori gone, we’re straight into roll-ups before Taguchi was taken outside for a Tiger Mask tope. Eagles stays in the ring to duck an enziguiri from Romero, who tries for a cradle and a roll-up, before a Turbo Backpack and the Ron Miller Special forced the win. This was a good opener, and while Taguchi’s 69 dream isn’t dead, we did at least get the pay-off of the long ELP loaded boot storyline. ***¼
Tam Nakano & Saya Kamitani vs. Mayu Iwatani & Starlight Kid
The STARDOM offer match makes it to the main card this year – with some weirdness brought up as this match came about via a random draw among unit members… seemingly much like the way they chose what music to mute.
Kamitani and Starlight start at pace, with leapfrogs, roll throughs and missed dropkicks, before Starlight Kid scored with a tijeras. Nakano’s knocked off the apron as Iwatani tagged in to hit a double 619 to Kamitani, then double standing moonsaults for an early two-count. A spinning heel kick gets Kamitani free to tag in Nakano, as those two traded forearms.
Iwatani’s head kick puts her ahead, before a Dragon suplex was blocked… a crucifix bomb gets a near-fall, before Nakano blocked another Dragon suplex and hit back. A Slingblade from Iwatani drops Tam again, before tags return us to Kamitani and Starlight Kid.
A dropkick clears Starlight Kid out of the ring, before Nakano and Kamitani double-team Iwatani… who returned with a double armdrag to take them outside. Starlight Kid adds an Asai moonsault into the aisle, then a twisting splash off the top to Kamitani for a near-fall. From there, an elevated crossbody of the top nearly gets Starlight Kid the win, ahead of a cloverleaf that Nakano broke up.
Nakano adds a flying crossbody into the pile on the floor, before Kamitani’s springboard crossbody into the ring, then a Northern Lights suplex drew a near-fall. A Star Crusher from Kamitani’s countered with a roll-up, as a see-saw sunset-flip eventually leads to a Magistral… before Kamitani’s schoolboy suplex added another near-fall…
Another Star Crusher’s stopped as the pace picked up, with Nakano and Iwatani trading Tiger suplexes… that leaves us with Kamitani and Starlight Kid again, with Kamitani finally landing a Star Crusher, before she went up for a Phoenix Splash to get the win. I keep saying this after every STARDOM special, but I really need to pay closer attention to that promotion if this is the norm. The match did feel a little spotty at points, but this was a breath of fresh air compared to the New Japan house style. ***½
Provisional KOPW 2022: CIMA vs. Chase Owens vs. Minoru Suzuki vs. Toru Yano
CIMA was out with T-Hawk and El Lindaman as the Strong Hearts were here to represent GLEAT…
We start with everyone given Yano a kicking, before we settled down to CIMA and Suzuki. They trade chops, with CIMA pulling ahead until Suzuki ducked him into a rear naked choke. CIMA’s let go as Suzuki ends up being pulled outside… so CIMA just dives into Owens, Yano and Suzuki for the hell of it.
Owens and CIMA take over in the ring, with Owens’ running knee leading to Yano bopping Chase in the head. Off comes the corner pad as Suzuki stared down Owens… forearms from Owens have little effect compared to Suzuki’s clonker. Yano tuns Suzuki into the exposed corner, before CIMA gave Yano a taste of his own medicine.
CIMA ties up Yano in a Deathlock as he suplexed Chase at the same time, before Suzuki forces CIMA to snap back on that Deathlock some more. CIMA, Suzuki and Owens lock up in a stacked-up sleeper, but Yano breaks it all via the ropes, only to get caught with a C-Trigger… which drew in CIMA to hit an Air Raid Crash on Chase, then a Meteora double knee drop.
Suzuki breaks up the cover with a rear naked choke to CIMA, before a Yano low blow and roll-up looked to get the win… but Suzuki kicks out, then clobbered Yano with a dropkick as a rear naked choke and a Gotch piledriver got the win. Finally a new direction, and I for one want to see how Suzuki handles what had been treated as a comedy title going into 2022. Hopefully with matches with more meaning to them, although this was a perfectly fine sprint for the time they had. **½
Oh, nevermind, Suzuki gets handcuffed to the top rope by Yano after the match…
NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship: Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & YOH vs. House of Torture (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi & SHO) (c)
Goto, YOSHI-HASHI and EVIL won titles on night one – and we have a jump start as the challengers met the House of Torture lads in the aisle.
Of course, the corner pad disappears early on as the House of Torture tried to use foul means to get ahead, but it’s YOSHI-HASHI who looked to turn it around, landing a neckbreaker on EVIL before he dropkicked Yujiro off the ropes. An Incolle slam has Yujiro back in it, as triple-teaming comes into play.
SHO distracts the referee with his spanner so we can get more bullshit, but Tomohiro Ishii pulls Dick out of the ring as he was using the garotte. A Direct Drive’s blocked by SHO, before an over-the-knee Falcon arrow put YOH ahead… but then the ref’s distracted as an EVIL low blow and a spanner from SHO got the win. It felt brief, so the interference didn’t feel as onerous, but This Feud Must Continue… and seemingly will now shift to the IWGP tag titles. Remember when folks complained about the Guerrillas/Tekkers rematches? *¾
Going into intermission, Keiji Mutoh comes out as Pro Wrestling NOAH invaded the Dome. The entire roster it seemed hit the ring, or at least those who were on the Yokohama card on Saturday, as things built up to the LIJ wrestlers who’d already appeared confronting Kenoh before Shingo opted against starting a fight. Kenoh vowed to change the pecking order of wrestling in Japan, and have NOAH become the top promotion… while Keiji Mutoh just casually pulled his phone out to take a selfie at the end.
They re-announce dates for the New Year’s Golden Series and New Japan Cup 2022 tours, along with the 50th anniversary show as the month of March looks to be overwhelmed with shows. We’ve also got Dominion on June 12 in Osaka Jo-Hall… and Wrestling Dontaku on May 1 in the Fukuoka PayPay Dome.
Great-O-Khan vs. SANADA
“Two of the winningest wrestlers in 2021” was the sorta-hook for this match, as the skirmishes between LIJ and the United Empire continued.
We had new gear for SANADA and a tentative start, before he tried an early moonsault off the apron… it misses, as O-Khan makes sure SANADA stayed outside with a clothesline. Back inside, O-Khan took control with some Mongolian chops, which SANADA eventually blocked… before a low dropkick spun down O-Khan.
An atomic drop took O-Khan outside for a plancha, before O-Khan retaliated with Hiromu’s Victory Royale. Aaron Henare talks O-Khan out of doing a plancha, but SANADA dared him to do it… and O-Khan actually pulled it off! Returning to the ring, SANADA’s caught in a Sheep Killer, which he escaped as they go between that and a Skull End, before an O’Connor roll’s blocked…
Instead, O-Khan rolls up and tries an Eliminator, before another Sheep Killer had SANADA in the middle of the ring. A Tiger suplex from SANADA lands for a near-fall, but he moonsaults into O-Khan’s knees before an exchange of strikes nearly ended the match. O-Khan pulls off a moonsault, but his Eliminator’s countered into a Euro clutch… and that’s the win. Technically sound, but this match was lacking any kind of spark for me – and at this point, O-Khan “could have used the win” more than SANADA. **¾
Jeff Cobb vs. Tetsuya Naito
We continue the Empire/LIJ stuff with another match set up during the World Tag League finals…
Cobb jumps Naito, but a low dropkick stopped that as Naito tried to take Cobb’s vertical base away. Heading outside, a baseball slide took Cobb to his knees, before he suplexes Naito into the ring post as a counter for an Irish whip attempt – a nice way to change things up from Cobb.
Naito narrowly beats the count-out, but got caught in a press slam out of a suplex before he was charged between the corner pads. A single-leg dropkick from Naito buys him time, as did a low dropkick to the knee before a Combination Cabron again targeted that left knee. That’s followed up with a Trailer Hitch from Naito, but Cobb’s able to get free – only for a Tour of the Islands to be stopped…
Naito keeps going back to that knee, running in with a dropkick ahead of an Esperanza out of the corner before a Destino’s blocked. So he goes back to the knee, only for Cobb to counter a top rope ‘rana into a powerbomb for a near-fall. Another Tour of the Islands is countered into a calf slicer as a bloody Cobb’s knee gave way… but he elbows out of the hold before he ragdolled Naito into a German suplex.
A lariat from Cobb spins Naito down, but a Valentia gets Naito back in ahead of a Destino… and that’s the win. An excellent outing, but so far, so bad for the United Empire, who are threatening being blown out tonight, as Naito’s long-term plan on Cobb’s knee paid big dividends here. ***¾
No Disqualification for IWGP United States Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. KENTA (c)
The no-DQ rules here don’t mean falls count anywhere, as they reiterated that this is “normal rules, just without disqualifications.”
We start with a duel of kendo sticks as KENTA’s sent outside, where he took over with a belt shot before he wore down Tanahashi with a kendo stick back inside. Time for plunder now in the form of chairs and bin lids… and his old IWGP US title shot briefcase from 2020. There’s even a ladder, just for the fun of it, which Tanahashi gets run into before a low dropkick saw KENTA pratfall into the bin he was holding.
Tanahashi bounces a bin off of KENTA’s head, then grabbed a guitar from under the ring. Ain’t he great? El Kabong followed on KENTA’s head, as Tanahashi sets up a table outside the ring, before drawing KENTA into the ropes for a Dragon screw. Back inside, a Cloverleaf’s broken up by a briefcase shot, while a briefcase-assisted Busaiku knee took Tanahashi down.
KENTA and Tanahashi head up top, with Tanahashi teasing a superplex through that table… but instead, a palm strike takes KENTA back into the ring, as a Slingblade into a stack of chairs left KENTA laying. A missed High Fly Flow sees Tanahashi land in those same chairs, before KENTA took Tanahashi into the corner, burying him under chairs for a hesitation dropkick.
Go 2 Sleep’s countered into Twist and Shouts, with one landing on the chairs. Tanahashi single-handedly takes the table into the ring. KENTA’s draped across it, before a chair’s put on top of him as Tanahashi goes up top for another High Fly Flow… but KENTA gets off and smashes the chair over Tanahashi’s head, then reset the table before an avalanche Falcon Arrow put Tanahashi through the table.
Out comes a second table… then another ladder, and this one’s a big boy. KENTA puts safety first as he puts the braces in, which gets some laughter from the crowd as it delays things, as KENTA then set the table at the foot of the ladder as he put Tanahashi on it and prepared for a stomp off the top… but Tanahashi gets up and wobbles that ladder as KENTA fell face first onto the bin.
That busted open KENTA, whom Tanahashi put back on the table, then headed up the ladder and nailed a High Fly Flow through the table, which thankfully broke… and that’s enough to get the win as Tanahashi regained the US title. That finish looked ungodly brutal, and that’s before you factored in KENTA’s bloody eye. It’s just a shame that New Japan’s scared people off of using GIFs, because this would have gotten a lot of eyes on it… ***¾
IWGP World Heavyweight Championship: Will Ospreay vs. Kazuchika Okada (c)
The United Empire went into this 0-2 for the night – and with Ospreay only having had one career win over Okada going in, the deck feels stacked as we look to settle the issue over the two IWGP World Heavyweight title belts.
Ospreay’s entrance video lists the names he’s beaten as “real world champion,” and we’ll leave it there. We’ve the usual opening stretch from Okada, dictating things, and then booting Ospreay down when he tried to pick up the pace. We’ve a nice back body drop early from Okada, who followed with a neckbreaker for barely a one-count.
Ospreay knocks Okada to the outside, then followed him out so they could stare at the real and eBay title belts. Back inside, Ospreay kicks Okada in the back, then threw some chops ahead of a spinning backbreaker for a two-count. A flapjack pancakes Ospreay next, as did a running back elbow, before a DDT landed for another two-count.
Ospreay handsprings off the ropes into a neckbreaker slam, before the pair found themselves on the apron, with Okada hitting a shotgun dropkick to knock Ospreay down to the railings. A big boot took Ospreay over the rails as Okada tees up for another dive, but a superkick takes out Okada’s knee in mid air ahead of a sick thud on the landing. They then do a callback to a prior WrestleKingdom as Ospreay climbs a lighting rig and hits a moonsault onto Okada below.
Returning to the ring, a sitout powerbomb lands for a near-fall, before Okada stopped a Chelsea Grin… only to get taken outside, as he caught a Sasuke special and countered it into a tombstone on the floor. Back inside, Okada sets up for a Money Clip, but it’s broken up in the corner ahead of a shotgun dropkick, which all set up for the top rope elbow and the Rainmaker zoom out…
Okada gets his knees up to block a standing shooting star press, only to get caught with a big sit-out powerbomb as Ospreay started to get back into it, hanging Okada across the ropes for a shooting star press to the prone champion. Another one followed for a near-fall, before the Chelsea Grin knocked Okada to his knees. A Hidden Blade’s ducked, but Okada’s attempt at a tombstone is countered in kind before Okada… busted out a Storm Breaker?!
A dropkick to the back of Ospreay followed, then one to the front, before a Rainmaker was countered into a standing one-man Spanish Fly. He followed that with a springboard OsCutter off the top rope, but Okada’s up at two, before Okada stuffed Ospreay with a tombstone out of a Storm Breaker.
Another Storm Breaker’s countered into a clothesline… before a Rainmaker almost drew the three count. Okada takes it back to the mat for a Money Clip, but Ospreay gets free and hits a Rainmaker to swat Okada away. The crowd’s clapping in time to a forearm exchange adds some extra percussion to things, but the pace increases as Okada battered Ospreay everywhere he went, leading to a backslid Rainmaker.
Another Rainmaker ends with a pop-up forearm, then a Hidden Blade… with Ospreay scrambling to make the cover, but Okada’s up at two. Kawada-ish kicks soften up Okada for another Storm Breaker, but he flips free and sits on Ospreay for a near-fall, before a hook kick and another Storm Breaker attempt kept things going. Ospreay goes all Shibata on us with a headbutt, before the search for another Hidden Blade saw him run into a landslide tombstone… as a Rainmaker finally sealed the win. Okada’s latest reign doesn’t come to a halt after one day, as his first defence proved to be a cracker – and shut up the loudmouth Ospreay. Who knew that Okada would be standing tall as New Japan celebrated their 50th anniversary? ****¾
After the match, Okada called himself the champ while putting over Ospreay as the “real deal,” as the traditional post-match speech is interrupted by Tetsuya Naito. I mean, sure, why not? They’ve not met one on one in two years – since Naito won the first “double gold dash,” so it’s definitely a protected-enough match, although in the absence of any New Beginning tours, is this one they’re going to hold off for two months until the Anniversary show in March?
The third night of WrestleKingdom’s on Saturday, January 8, with that NOAH vs. New Japan crossover card. It’s only available live via iPPV via the Abema.tv website, with the VOD following a week later on New Japan World for those who want to see it, as the New Years Golden Series tour kicks off on Thursday January 20.Adding those three pre-show matches felt like they were trying to shoehorn a New Year Dash onto this card – given that we’re not getting one in 2022… but in truth all it did was bloat a card that already felt like slim pickings. Take away the WrestleKingdom moniker, and these were a pair of decent-to-good cards for New Japan – with a MOTYC in the main event and some absolute insanity in the semi-main to boot.