If Wrestle Kingdom 18 is any indication the future of NJPW is in very good hands. With approximately half the card resting on the shoulders of newer, younger NJPW talent like the Bullet Club War Dogs, Catch 2/2, Yota Tsuji, Yuya Uemura, Shota Umino, Ren Narita, ELP, Hikuleo and others it is apparent the next generation is up to the task of carrying NJPW into 2024 and beyond.

The veterans still brought it though and once again Wrestle Kingdom featured definite contenders for Match of the Year despite us being only four days into 2024.

Kazuchika Okada versus Bryan Danielson was clearly the most anticipated match of the card even though it wasn’t in the main event spot. Danielson cut some of the best promos of his career working his real-life injuries into a fiery Okada revenge angle.

As Danielson came to the ring he picked up one of Okada’s bills that fell from the ceiling of the Tokyo Dome and ripped it in half.

Danielson not only received big cheers from the crowd but also a hug from Red Shoes, the official. Danielson wore an eye patch covering his right eye and part of his face.
Okada stuck out his chin daring Danielson to hit him, to strike him. When Danielson did Okada would smack the hand away. Cheeky that.

As Danielson hovered and slid over Okada he tried to lock in some sort of submission but Okada fought him off.

Okada puts the boots to Danielson. Courtesy: NJPW.

As they locked up both men growled at each other and started labelling each other with forearm smashes. Okada got the first big strike in though with a running elbow strike to the face. He gave Danielson a hip attack in a corner and a DDT for a two count.

Okada put Danielson in the Money Clip. Danielson got out of it by bringing them both into the ropes. A drop kick to Danielson’s injured eye had him exiting to the floor. A big mistake as Okada DDTed Danielson on the floor. Okada charged at Danielson only to get a running knee in the ribs and chest.

Danielson took exception to Okada targeting his eye.

“You want to play that game?” shouted Danielson slapping Okada in the face over and over.

Danielson wrapped Okada’s arm through a ringside railing cranking down on it before he slammed the barricade door on it twice before Red Shoes stepped in.

Danielson rolled Okada back into the ring. Okada rolled around on the canvass holding and cradling his arm. Danielson suplexed Okada on his arm then bent his arm backwards stomping it into the canvass.

Danielson yelled to the crowd: I am going to break his arm You tell him! I am going to break his arm!

Danielson wrapped Okada’s arm in the ropes pulling down on it. Danielson demanded Red Shoes get out of the way as he struck Okada’s arm with two shotgun drop kicks.

An Air Raid Crash from Okada separated the two men. Danielson met Okada on the top rope with a chain of European uppercuts to the face, a butterfly suplex to the mat and a Yes Lock. Okada was able to drape his leg over the ropes to escape.

Absorbing Danielson’s kicks on the apron Okada spiked Danielson with a Tombstone Piledriver. Giving Danielson some of his own medicine, Okada ripped the protective guard off stomping Danielson’s bad eye. Okada hits Danielson’s eye with a pinpoint flying drop kick and a flying elbow smash from the top rope. Danielson blocked the Rainmaker Clothesline with a crucifix and a kick to the injured arm.

It was hammer and anvil time for Okada. Okada became furious as he fought out of the hold. A Busaiku Knee Kick got Danielson a two count. Okada refused to quit as Danielson put him in another Yes Lock for minutes and minutes on end.

Okada begins to fade. Courtesy: NJPW.

Danielson demanded Okada tap-out as he began to fade with a concerned Red Shows looking on. Okada finally got his legs on the bottom rope once again to escape.

Danielson held Okada’s arms as he stomped his face. Okada broke the hold to hit Danielson with the Rainmaker Clothesline. Holding his arm in pain, Okada couldn’t make the cover.

A mutual sign of respect. Courtesy: NJPW.

Another Busaiku Knee folded Okada up. Danielson led the Tokyo Dome in a Yes! Chant as he prepared to land another. Okada ducked though, gave Danielson a drop kick, Landslide and a Rainmaker Clothesline for the 1, 2, 3. After the match both men bowed to each other, shook hands and Danielson held up Okada’s hand in victory.

The actual advertised main event pit the leader of Los Ingobernables de Japón, Tetsuya Naito, against his former stablemate and betrayer, IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, Sanada. Earlier this year, Sanada dumped LIJ for the new Just Five Guys stable.

The two battled with Sanada almost being counted out after Naito gave him a neckbreaker off the ringside barricade. Naito gave Sanada’s neck and shoulders all of is attention softening them up for his Destino finisher. Sanada avoided Destino often using his TKO.

Naito eventually claimed the title from Sanada with Valentina and Destino. Naito had blood streaming from his injured eye though.

Naito didn’t have any time to celebrate or enjoy the moment he worked so hard for though. As he was about to address the crowd he was attacked from behind by Evil and Dick Togo.

Evil ruins Naito’s celebration. Courtesy: NJPW.

“I won’t let you have your role call,” said Evil reminding Naito that he was very much against unifying the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and the IWGP Intercontinental Championship into the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship in the first place.

Evil threatened to steal the belt but Sanada leapt into the ring drop kicking him in the face. Sanada and Naito double-teamed Dick Togo. The crowd cheered for Sanada as he made his way to the back allowing Naito to have him moment in the sun. Before he thanked the fans Naito had something to say to Sanada though.

Naito is your new champion. Courtesy: NJPW.

“I am holding this microphone right now because of you. Thank you,” he said.

Wrestle Kingdom 18 Results

New Japan Ranbo

The big surprise is that madman Takashi Iizuka came out of retirement for the match. He and his former pal Taichi teamed up for a bit after Taichi gave him the iron claw back. Iizuka turned on Taichi though. The final four who will face each other at New Year Dash to become the first KPOW Provisional Champion of 2024 are:

Winners: The Great-O-Khan, Yoh, Toru Yano and Taiji Ishimori.

Rating: 7 / 10

Bullet Club War Dogs (c) vs. Catch 2/2 – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match

TJP as The Aswang. Courtesy:  NJPW.

When Francesco Akira comes down to the ring there at his feet is the coffin TJP was locked in weeks ago during their coffin match against The War Dogs. TJP rises out of the coffin with one skeletal hand and a hideous mask on as well. He is dressed as Filipino mythological creature known as The Aswang. The Aswang is “an umbrella term for various shape-shifting evil creatures in Filipino folklore, such as vampires, ghouls, witches, viscera suckers, and transforming human-beast hybrids (usually dogs, cats, pigs).

The Dogs aren’t sure what to make of this especially with the Aswang breathing mist. The Aswang leaps at them knocking them out of the ring. Catch 22 hits the Leaning Tower but Drilla Moloney smartly rolls out of the ring.

Catch 2/2 double-team Connors. Connors backdrops Akira over the top rope and to the floor.

As Drilla holds up Aswang up for a suplex on the floor Connors spears Aswang off the apron. The War Dogs bring their dog collar into the equation. Connors puts the collar around Aswang’s throat and ties the chain around a steel barricade. He chokes Aswang out.

The War Dogs double-team Akira. Akira fights on leaping over Connors and delivering a destroyer to Moloney. Aswang makes it back to the apron and hot tags in.

Aswang bites Drilla’s neck as he grabs onto the official. Akira gives Connors a Spanish Fly off the top rope. Aswang spits red mist in Drilla’s face as Akira moonsaults Connors on the floor. Drilla is pinned after Two-By-Two running knee strikes by Catch 2/2.

Winners: …and new IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, Catch 2/2.

Rating: 7.5 / 10

Zack Sabre Jr. (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi –  NJPW World Television Championship Match

The Ace and President of NJPW flies high. Courtesy: NJPW.

As with all Television Championship matches this has a 15 minute time limit. Zack twists this way and that folding up Tanahashi in hold after hold. Tanahashi fires back with two slingblades and a flying crossbody from the top rope. Zack puts up his knees though as The Ace goes for High Fly Flow. Zack puts The Ace in a zillion submission holds. The Ace finally breaks out grasping for and reaching the bottom rope.

The Ace counters the Zack Driver. Both men try to roll the other up time and time again. Tanahashi wins that battle and the belt.

Winner: …and new NJPW World Television Champion, Hiroshi Tanahashi.

Rating: 7.5 / 10

Yota Tsuji vs. Yuya Uemura

Yota Tsuji and Yuya Uemura stand face to face. Courtesy: NJPW.

Uemura counters Tsuji’s strength with his speed. The big man dives through the ropes knocking Yuya into the ringside barricade. An electric chair back in the ring scores Tsuji a two count as the pace of the match really slows down. Tsuji shrugs off Yuya’s chops to bowl him over with a shoulder tackle. Yuya unleashes a series of arm drags and ends that combination with a drop kick. A bulldog gets Yuya a two count.

Yuya pushes Tsuji off the top rope. Tsuji lands on his feet. Yuya dives off the top rope. Tsuji kicks him in the face. Yuya kicks out of a brainbuster bomb.

Tsuji sets-up Yuya for his spear. Yuya catches him in an arm drag and almost pins him. Tsuji kicks out a Dragon Suplex but not a Deadbolt Suplex.

Winner: Yuya Uemura

Rating: 7.5 / 10

Shota Umino and Kaito Kiyomiya vs. House of Torture (Evil and Ren Narita)

Togo hits nasty. Courtesy: NJPW.

The House of Torture are in submission holds. Kanemaru rings the bell causing confusion. Evil shoves the faces into the official. Kanemaru, Sho and Yujiro enter the ring and attack while the official is down. Togo hits his crotch shot from the top rope. Umino spikes Narita with an over the top rope DDT on the ring apron.

Kanemaru and Sho try to throw Umino into a ringside barricade. Umino bounces off of it and drop kicks them both. Evil chokes Umino with t-shirt around the throat.

Yujiro distracts the official so that Kanemaru can slide a push-up bar into the ring. Narita clobbers Umino in the face with it. Narita spikes Umino for the win.

Winners: House of Torture (Evil and Ren Narita)

Rating: 7 / 10


For Part Two Click on the link below