With Wrestle Kingdom 13 now at hand, the future of NJPW hopes to have many questions answered. Can The Ace regain his throne against The Cleaner or will Kenny Omega add Hiroshi Tanahashi to his list of failed IWGP Heavyweight challengers? Will Chris Jericho retain the IC title against Tetsuya Naito or will the leader of LIJ regain his cool against the Alpha of the business?
Wrestle Kingdom 13 comes to us live from the Toyko Dome. Our English commentators are Kevin Kelly and Don Callis.
Main Event – Kenny Omega (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – Singles match for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship
The question with this match is can Hiroshi Tanahashi become an eight-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion against Kenny Omega, a man who has set the wrestling world on fire starting at Wrestle Kingdom 11. Kenny is back in full heel mode in his promo and talks about the broken-down Tanahashi and how he’s the only one who still refers to himself as The Ace.
Callis admits to being torn in this one. We know his relationship with Kenny Omega but Callis has stated on numerous occasions that the Ace is one of his favorites of all time.
No special entrance for The Ace as he comes out in normal ring gear to his normal music. We’re told that the space that shows off his midriff is the exact size of the IWGP title, meaning the belt completes the look.
Not so for the current IWGP Champion. His Cleaner music is replaced by an 8-bit track and his entrance video looks like a Pokémon challenge video from the Game Boy days. Kenny comes out looking like a Final Fantasy RPG character complete with a buster sword. The Bucks are his seconds.
The two men circle around for a bit. The Ace slaps Kenny in the face. That starts the fight. Kenny gets Tanahashi on the ropes and playfully slaps his face again while Tana slaps the taste out of Kenny’s mouth.
Kenny goes for a One-Winged Angel but Hiroshi counters it into a submission and a roll-up attempt. The Ace goes to work on Kenny’s left leg. Don Callis admits Kenny’s mood hasn’t improved since he won the title despite reuniting with Ibushi. Callis says the title changes people in ways normally not expected.
Still in a submission hold, Kenny and Tana trade face slaps before Kenny reaches the ropes to cause a break. Kenny works on Tanahashi’s lower back with a barrage of kicks. Kenny hits a backbreaker and goes for a cover that is kicked out at two.
Tanahashi continues to take shots to his kidney area. Kenny continues to work the area while slapping The Ace and mocking him. Tana goes outside and Kenny hits a back suplex on the edge of the ring. Kenny then Irish Whips him into the barricade.
Kevin and Don make comparisons about this hatred akin to Bret Hart and HBK back when both (Don and Kevin) were in the WWF. Kenny now goes full heel by tossing Tanahashi into the announce board with the multiple former IWGP Heavyweight champions including Togi Makabe. Kenny follows it up with a moonsault and then brings out a table, chanting in Japanese “I am graceless?” The Bucks stay out of the fight but tell Kenny to watch for Tana.
Tana teases tossing Kenny into the table and just throws him back into the ring. Kenny unloads three chops before Tanahashi gets the advantage with his first Dragon Screw. A body slam and a summersault senton only get a two-count. Kenny teases a Rise of the Terminator but Tanahashi prevents it. Kenny tosses him out again and here we go with Rise of the Terminator.
Kenny hits the move but lands a little bit off and his lower back clips the edge of the entrance ramp. Kenny holds his leg but manages to get up. He grabs Tanahashi and tosses him back into the ring rather than get a count out win. Kenny hits a dropkick on Tanahashi’s shoulder and hits a Snap Dragon Suplex. That’s not enough as Tana get up. He eats another Snap Dragon and then Kenny follows it up with a V-Trigger.
Kenny can’t hit the One-Winged Angel but does hit the You Can’t Escape Me. Kenny tweaked his ankle on that move and that allows Tana to hit a Dragon Screw on Kenny while Omega is on the turnbuckle. Kenny’s in trouble as he eats a Twist and Shout. The Ace locks on the Cloverleaf and we’re at the 20-minute point in the match.
Kenny can’t reach the ropes and Tana sits down on the hold. Kenny fights out of the move but this allows Tana to reposition Kenny into the STYLES CLASH and he hits it with authority! Tana goes top and goes for the High Fly Flow but eats Kenny’s knees.
Kenny gets up first and goes for a V-Trigger on a prone Tanahashi but the Ace gets out of the way and Kenny knees the turnbuckle instead. Kenny is outside the ropes and Tana hits Dragon Screw No. 3 on him. This allows The Ace to hit a Sling Blade on Kenny on the edge of the ring. Tana now goes for the kill by putting Kenny on the table. Tana goes for another High Fly Flow but Kenny moves out of the way and the Ace goes through the table.
Red Shoes counts and Kenny has the chance to get a countout win but he decides once again to pull Tanahashi into the ring. Kenny goes back to the lower body and hits a double stomp on Tanahashi before hitting a powerbomb. Tanahashi kicks out and Kenny hits another powerbomb with the same result. We then get a gutwrench powerbomb but still can’t put away the Ace who basically squirms out of the pin, not kicks out.
Kenny calls for another V-Trigger but it’s countered into a Sling Blade. The two start trading forearm shots and now it breaks down into a brawl. We’re at the 30-minute mark now. Kenny hits a suplex but Tanahashi gets up quickly. Kenny now hits a Sling Blade of his own and follow it up with his own High Fly Flow.
Tanahashi kicks out at one Kenny tries to put him down with a running V-Trigger. Kenny goes to the well once too often and Tanahashi catches a kick but eats a Reverse ‘Rana. Kenny hits another vicious V-Trigger. Kenny goes for the One-Winged Angel but it’s countered into Tana’s Reverse ‘Rana.
It’s payback time for Tanahashi. He hits a Dragon Suplex, the move that won him his first IWGP title at Wrestle Kingdom, and then goes for the High Fly Flow on a standing Kenny Omega. He hits it and goes for another HFF. Kenny eats another but it looks like Red Shoes took a long time for the count. Kenny barely kicks out on what I thought was a heel drawn-out slow count.
Tana takes too much time to get on the ropes for another HFF and eats a V-Trigger. Kenny works on the lower back. Kenny hits a Super Snap Dragon Suplex that allows Tanahashi to avoid rolling on his head but hits the mat face-first. Kenny calls for another V-Trigger and hits it flush. The OWA is countered and Tana hits another Sling Blade and goes for another HFF. He hits it and Red Shoes counts to three AND THE ACE HAS REGAINED THE TITLE!
Winner by pinfall…AND NEW IWGP CHAMPION…HIROSHI TANAHASHI!
Match rating: 4/5
Pre-Show – Yuji Nagata, Jeff Cobb, and David Finlay vs. Bullet Club (Hangman Page, Yujiro Takahashi, and Marty Scurll) vs. Chaos (Hirooki Goto, Beretta, and Chuckie T.) vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr.) vs. Ryusuke Taguchi and Most Violent Players (Togi Makabe and Toru Yano) – Gauntlet match to determine the number one contenders to the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship
There is no New Japan Rumble on the Pre-Show this year. Bullet Club and Yuji, Jeff and David start this one off. We’re told this is the 25th time that Nagata has competed during a January 4 event. This match is basically all roll-up finishes. A miscommunication by the Bullet Club allows Finlay to get a roll-up on the Tokyo Pimp. This introduces CHAOS to the fray.
Once again we get another roll-up end with Finlay getting his second win of the night to bring in Suzuk-Gun. This one gets a different ending with Finlay eating a Killer Bomb courtesy of Lance Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr. to end the trio’s night.
This brings out Taguchi, Yano and Makabe. Makabe gets a huge pop when he gets tag in from Taguchi, allowing a back-and-forth forearm strike battle between the Unchained Gorilla and Suzuki himself.
At the end, the KES gets caught by a double low blow by Yano allows another roll-up for the win to eliminate Suzuki-gun.
Winners by pinfall…Ryusuke Taguchi, Toru Yano and Togi Makabe
Match rating: 3/5
A perfectly fine match, but like these gauntlet matches usually go by, the last team to enter has the biggest chance of winning.
Kota Ibushi hits a double kick on Will Ospreay.
Match 1 – Kota Ibushi (c) vs. Will Ospreay – Singles match for the NEVER Openweight Championship
Osprey has a kind of medieval knight or priest theme for his entrance getup. Callis and Kelly both think this could be the best match of the night.
This starts off fast. Don Callis saying too quick to call is not an exaggeration. Ibushi gets a chance to end the match quickly with a Kami Goye after Ospeay pauses with his Superhero pose after faking a dive.
Osprey goes outside and Kota tries to hit the first outside move of the match. He goes for a Golden Triangle which is countered with a kick to the back and then Will hits a cartwheel move on the entrance ramp.
Will slows the pace down and we get some mat wrestling. Kota goes for a pin off a high-angle back suplex and then Will goes for a counter roll-up. Kevin Kelly reminds us the NEVER Openweight title has changed hands the last four WK events and six times in 2018, the most in title history.
A Cheeky Nandos connects to Kota and Ospreay now starts to trade forearms. Kota gets the better of the exchange. Both men trade about 10 moves in a row before both men knock each other down with a One Man Spanish Fly by Will.
Will’s Stormbreaker is countered and Kota almost gets a pin. A Yard Dart is countered and Kota hits his version of the Bomaye with his left knee. Ouch. Kota goes top rope and then falls into the Tree of Woe. The two trade slaps and then Will starks kicking Kota in the face to force a ref break.
Kota hits a double foot stomp on Will on the top of the turnbuckle. Kota then goes for a suplexbut Osprey lands on his feet and then hits the Robinson Special on a bloodied Ibushi. Will goes for the Oss- Cutter, but Kota catches it and hits a straightjacket suplex but can’t get the pinfall.
Kota keeps wrist control and misses the Kami Goye. We get another series of swapping holds and Kota gets a package piledriver for another two-count. Things then nasty as Kota is kicked in the back of the head and then elbowed by Ospreay. He legitimately looks knocked out. The ref allows Will to hit the Stormbreaker to end the match and the title changes hands once again.
Winner and NEW NEVER Openweight Champion…WILL OSPREAY
Match Rating: 4.5/5
A great opening match. I hope Kota isn’t legitimately injured because he looks like he’s knocked out as the training staff surrounds Kota. A gurney is brought in and Ibushi does not look right as he’s carried out of the ring.
Match 2: Suzuki-gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado) (c) vs. Roppongi 3K (Sho and Yoh) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Bushi and Shingo Takagi) – Three-way tag team match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Don Callis questions if Rocky Romero “rolled a male cheerleader for that jacket” he’s wearing and I’m instantly reminded of the pilot episode of Miami Vice when a similar comment was made.
Suzuki-Gun has been the champions since March 6, well over 300 days and are 19-4 as a team. To claim the longest reign, Kanemaru and Desperado have to survive tonight and the additional 44 days. That doesn’t happen in this one as the champs end up not even being involved in the decision.
Bushi and Shingo were 10-3 as a team, now 11-3 following this match, Takagi ends the match for LIJ by hitting Last of the Dragon on Sho to claim the titles. A good quick match but nothing really stood out.
Winners by pinfall…AND NEW IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions…LIJ’s Bushi and Shingo Takagi
Match rating: 3/5
Odd that we’d talk about the length of the reign and then not even have the former champs involved in the decision.
Zack Sabre Jr. locks in an armlock against Ishii early in their match for the RevPro British Heavyweight Championship. Sabre won the title via submission.
Match 3 – Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs. Zack Sabre Jr. – Singles match for the British Heavyweight Championship
I love Taka as ZSJ’s hype man and want him to do this forever. Sabre is wearing his single white attire rather than the black Suzuki-Gun attire.
ZSJ starts off by locking in an armbar. Ishii fights to break up the count and we’re past the 60 seconds that ZSJ said he’d end the fight in. Sabre goes right back to his various holds and Ishii again gets a rope break.
Zack decides to poke the bear by gently kicking Ishii. This actually works well because ZSJ throws on a few submissions and then Ishii finally counters is with an Ankle Lock before ZSJ hits an enzuigiri to break the hold.
After hitting a top rope suplex, ZSJ survives and then smashes Ishii’s right arm. This means he’s going to start singling in on that arm. A lot of great counter wrestling ends with another octopus-style submission hold by ZSJ that’s turned into a powerbomb pinning attempt. Ishii kicks out and ZSJ then hits a PK.
ZSJ kicks Ishii five times and then Ishii knocks ZSJ on his back after one stiff chop. A stacked powerbomb gets Ishii a two-count. Ishii headbutts ZSJ and clotheslines him out for a close two-count.
ZSJ ends this match by getting Ishii in another octopus-style submission. Ishii can’t tap out, but signals to the ref that he’s submitting. Zack regains his title.
Winner by submission…AND NEW REVPRO BRITISH HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION…Zack Sabre Jr.
Match rating: 3.5/5
Another good match. Just what I expected in terms of styles. It’s good to see ZSJ continue to evolve.
EVIL kicks Nick Jackson to create space during their tag team match.
Match 4 – Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa) (c) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Sanada and Evil) vs. The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) – Three-way tag team match for the IWGP Tag Team Championship
So not a triple threat in terms of all three teams being in the ring at the same time, but two teams. Tama Tonga wants a handshake with the Jacksons, claiming “I’m a good guy”. He offers the handshake to LIJ, EVIL takes it and by doing so he tags himself in and tosses Tama out.
EVIL tosses Matt Jackson on the entrance and clotheslines him outside the ring. Kevin Kelly reminds us of Matt’s back injuries from 2018.
Tanga Loa points at Matt Jackson who is trying to submit EVIL.
The Jacksons get in and go to work on LIJ. EVIL gets caught in a submission. The Tongans don’t break up the pin but help EVIL get to the ropes.
The Bucks try to finish this off with Indy Taker but Tama hits a Gun Stun on Matt, allowing LIJ to hit the Magic Killer and ending with Sanada to hit a moonsault for the three-count.
Winners by pinfall…AND NEW IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONS…LIJ
Match rating: 3/5
Not sure if this counts as G.o.D. breaking the rules because they interfered and broke up a finishing attempt, not breaking up the pinfall. So EVIL and Sanada are 29-5 in 2018 as a team and now 1-0 to start out 2019.
This one felt like a way to write out the Young Bucks rather than anything else. With Ibushi and the Bucks already losing, the question is does Cody and Kenny continue these as the Elite begins to transition to their own brand?
Match 5 – Cody (c) vs. Juice Robinson – Singles match for the IWGP United States Championship
A little bit of a rough match to watch because Cody is clearly still injured so there’s a lot of low impact (by pro wrestling standards) throughout. Cody fakes a leg injury early on. When Juice goes for a top rope move, Brandi gets on top of Cody to prevent the splash.
Brandi taunts Juice Robinson after saving Cody from a splash.
Again, we get more Brandi interference. She spears Juice and unloads on him following a vertical suplex on Juice. Tiger bans Brandi from the ring. She responds by pushing a Young Boy. Cody hits Cross Rhodes but Juice kicks out.
Cody goes for Din’s Fire but Juice counters it into Pulp Friction which is countered as well. Juice hits a Cross Rhodes of his own but that is kicked out at two. Cody then hits an ugly looking Pulp Friction but Juice kicks out.
Cody takes off his weight belt and hits Juice with it once before tossing the belt out of the ring. Cody then slaps Juice and Robinson answers with a nasty chop and a few right jabs. Cody hits a superkick to avoid the Left Hand of God.
Cody hits a delayed vertical suplex on Juice during their US title match.
Juice connects with two Left Hand of Gods, then hits Pulp Friction. Juice doesn’t go for the pin. He hits another Pulp Friction and goes for the pinfall. That’s all she wrote on that one folks. Cody can’t kick out.
Winner by pinfall…AND NEW IWGP US CHAMPION…JUICE ROBINSON
Match rating: 2.5/5
At least the announce team let us know about Cody’s injury and how that would require surgery after this match regardless of the outcome. But it’s good to see Juice continue to evolve and get back his win from Wrestle Kingdom 11. The future looks bright for Juice.
The Time Splitters reunite.
Match 6 – Kushida (c) vs. Taiji Ishimori – Singles match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
We have a mini-Kushida and a Doc Brown sighting. I remember these guys back at WK 10. Mini-Kushida does some fancy work and in comes the real Time Splitter in his future mode. Kevin Kelly says it was a Funky Weapon that turned Kushida into his current form.
Ishimori hits a nice rope assisted sliding German suplex and then misses a 450 which turns into a LaBelle Lock/Crossface. We get submission counter after submission counter. Kushida locks in an armbar. Ishimori gets out but then Kushida slaps on a standing keylock.
Ishimori then hits Bloody Cross but once again Kushida counters into the Hoverboard Lock. Bone Soldier rolls out of the hold and hits a Death Valley Driver. This spells the end for the Time Splitter.
Taiji Ishimori loads up Kushida for a piledriver during their match.
Ishimori hits a running knee and goes for another Bloody Cross. This is countered into a Back to the Future. Kushida goes for another Back to the Future, that’s countered and then Kushida clocks Ishimori with a straight right punch.
Bone Soldier shakes off the punch and hits another Bloody Cross for the win and the title.
Winner…AND NEW IWGP JR. HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION…TAIJI ISHIMORI
Match rating: 3.5/5
A good back-and-forth match. Either man had chances, but this is the right call for Bone Soldier to get the win. Waiting for his eventual match with Takahashi whenever the Ticking Time Bomb returns from injury.
Okada goes back to his old Rainmaker gear.
Match 7 – Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White (with Gedo)
The only non-title match on the main card. This is the first time since 2013 Okada has been in a Wrestle Kingdom match that has not revolved around the IWGP Heavyweight title.
Switchblade comes out in all-white attire. Okada’s music does not have the break in that has been signaling his mental breakdown. This is fully formed, platinum-hair wearing, Okada bucks-falling, TRUNKS-WEARING Rainmaker of New Japan. I kid you not that simply showing he’s ditched the long pants got a huge pop from the crowd.
Rather than running into each other White starts on the outside to sucker Okada. White does a good job of targeting Okada’s back. Switchblade hits a suplex on Okada to toss him out of the ring and tosses him into the barricade. Back and forth from the barricade to the ring White tosses Okada around.
Jay White decides to slap Okada a few times and that wakes up the Rainmaker. Okada unloads on White and drives him into the corner before hitting his Million Dollar Dropkick to send Switchblade out of the ring. Now the Rainmaker has a chance at Gedo. Gedo decides to punch Okada’s back but Okada simply tosses him over the barricade and hits his running cross body.
The match goes back in the ring. White avoids a dropkick but can’t hit the Blade Runner. Okada hits a dropkick and calls for the Rainmaker. That is countered and another Bladerunner is countered. Tombstone is countered. This series ends finally with a discus Rainmaker clothesline.
Okada goes for another Rainmaker, but this is perfectly countered into a Blade Runner and the Switchblade has beaten Okada!
Winner by pinfall…SWITCHBLADE JAY WHITE
Match rating: 4.5/5
A great display to show how much White has grown in the last year. A nice call to have Okada go back to his original look and it still not being enough. Looks like Switchblade’s stock will be on the rise.
Okada soaks in the applause.
Match 8 – Chris Jericho (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito – Singles match for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Naito comes out with his awesome purple cape while Y2J looks like an 80’s punk with spiked shoulders and his fedora.
Much like their match for the IC title in 2018, this one starts before the bell rings. Naito has his entrance attire off and attacks Jericho. Turnabout is fair play for this one. Naito strangles Y2J and hits him head first into a table. The match is still outside but Red Shoes starts the match. It’s a no-DQ match so this makes sense.
Naito looks at the damage done to Chris Jericho after piledriving him on the entrance ramp.
Naito hits Y2J with a nasty spike piledriver on the entrance ramp. The fight comes back in the ring and Naito is going dirty already by taking the protective padding off the corner buckle and hits Y2J with it a few times.
Naito tries to stay tranquillo but this ends up biting Naito as Y2J found a kendo stick and unloaded on Naito during the dive attempt. Jericho tears off his shirt, mocks Naito and clubs him a few more times, asking him if he “likes that shit” and then uses the kendo stick to choke Naito.
Jericho continues his offense by hitting a dropkick on Naito to knock him out of the ring. Callis says that move first debuted in NJPW back in 1993. Y2J then grabs a video camera a la the Rock and flips off the camera before attacking Naito again.
Chris Jericho readies Naito for a DDT on the announce table during their match.
The fight spills out to the announce area and the table. Jericho hits a DDT on the table. The table doesn’t break. Jericho rings the bell and claims he won the match. Red Shoes doesn’t allow it so Y2J goes back to work on Naito. A diving crossbody by Jericho gets a two-count.
Jericho hits a Lionsault but Naito kicks out at two. Naito fights back and taunts Jericho to kick him, only so Naito can spit on his face. A neckbreaker gets a two-count. Naito poses on top of Y2J and then spits on Jericho two more times.
Jericho counters a Cabron into the Walls of Jericho. Jericho tells Naito to submit but Naito refuses. He gets out of the hold and blocks a Codebreaker into a swinging DDT. Naito hits Gloria but Jericho kicks out. Jericho goes for another Walls of Jericho. Naito is taken back to the center of the ring. He sees the kendo stick near him and grabs it. Naito escapes the hold and then gets his retribution and pound or five of flesh by hitting a “Hiroshima Carp-worthy baseball swing” before setting up for batting practice which is countered into a Code Breaker.
Naito unloads on Chris Jericho with a kendo stick.
Naito kicks out barely. Things get more hardcore as eight total chairs are introduced. Jericho then picks up the IC belt and taunts Naito. Jericho is put into the exposed turnbuckle and then hit with Destino but kicks out at two.
Naito eyes the belt and clocks Jericho with it. He tosses the belt out of the ring, hits Destino and gets the three-count to get the title back.
Winner by pinfall…AND NEW IWGP INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION… TETSUYA NAITO
Match rating: 4/5
A great showing by Naito. Jericho is not wrestling like someone who’s been in the business for more than 20 years. Jericho leaves frustrated by assaulting a few Young Lions.