Jan 4th marks the second biggest pro wrestling event of the year, only behind WrestleMania, WrestleKingdom 10.
In the main event, Kazuchika Okada will defend his championship against Hiroshi Tanahashi for the third time at a WrestleKingdom event. The story heading into the match is if Okada can beat Tanahashi in the Tokyo Dome, as the last two times they squared off in the arena he came up short, leaving in tears last year. Although the match feels familiar, every match they’ve had is spectacular so far.
The rest of the card, besides a Tetsuya Naito/Hirooki Goto singles bout, are title matches. Jay Lethal will defend the Ring of Honor title against Michael Elgin. Tomohiro Ishii will defend the NEVER title against Katsuyori Shibata. Kushida battles Kenny Omega for the IWGP Jr. Championship. Shinsuke Nakamura defends the Intercontinental title against a not-so-healthy AJ Styles. Toru Yano and The Briscoes will face Bullet Club members Tama Tonga, Bad Luck Fale and Yujiro Takahashi to crown the inaugural NEVER openweight six man tag team titles.
Rounding it off are the two tag title matches as Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows defend against Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma, while reDragon defend the junior tag team titles in a four way also involving Roppongi Vice, Matt Sydal and Ricochet and The Young Bucks. There will also be a New Japan Rumble on the pre-show featuring everyone else not on the main card plus a few surprises.
We are looking for your thoughts on the event, so send a thumbs up, thumbs down or thumbs in the middle along with a best and worst match to Dave Meltzer.
NEW JAPAN RUMBLE
We’re opening with Jushin Liger vs. Yoshiaki Fujiwara. The crowd is pretty empty at this point.
Long match that wasn’t very good. It came down to Jado with the hip attack guys from different generations, Koshinaka and Taguchi. Jado, who was accompanied by Momoka, a famous rock star, eliminated both to win. She then announced the release of her new album in February. The match is all about the ring entrances. Some of the surprises in wre Hiro Saito, Cheeseubrger, who was in third and worked mosst of the way. Shiro Koshinaka got a good nostalgia pop. King Haku came out to the Bullet Club music wearing a Bullet Club shirt, as his son is Tama Tonga. It was funny as Striker was in his Gorilla Monsoon copying saying how Haku would never submit, and seconds later Tenzan made him submit to the Anaconda vise. Kazushi Sakuraba got the biggest pop but he was only in for a few seconds. He squared off with Great Kabuki, who also got a big reaction, and Kabuki blew mist in Sakuraba’s eyes and got DQ’d. Taguchi then pinnd Sakuraba. None of the young guys like Yohei Komatsu, Sho Tanaka, Juice Robinson, Jay White, Dave Finlay or Cody Hall were in the match, Everybody was no selling Cheeseburger’s offense but he was in the match for 25 minutes before Yoshi-Hashi pinned him.
BOBBY FISH & KYLE O’REILLY VS. YOUNG BUCKS VS. ROCKY ROMERO & BARETTA VS. MATT SYDAL & RICOCHET FOR THE IWGP JR. TAG TITLES
The Bucks won the title with More Bang for Your Buck on Romero. Great match with so many moves you couldn’t him track of them. Cody Hall interfered a lot to help the Bucks. Sydal & Ricochet did their double shooting star press spot on Romero & Baretta but the Bucks pulled them out of the ring to keep them from getting the pin. Nick Jackson gave a shout out to Kevin Owens, Neville and all their friends at the Fed. Romero was put over a lot during the match doing forever clotheslines to everyoen since he was losing the fall. The Bucks before the match looked at the cameras, said four-times jr. champs and winked.
MARK & JAY BRISCOE & TORU YANO VS. YUJIRO TAKAHASHI & BAD LUCK FALE & TAMA TONGA FOR NEVER TRIOS TITLES
The Briscoes & Yano won the titles when the Briscoes used the Doomsday device on Tonga for the pin. Mark was really good here but the match didn’t build well. A lot of Yano’s usual comedy. Jay was struggling with Tonga on his shoulders when Yano hit Tonga with a chair and Mark came off the top with a clothesline and Jay pinned Tonga.
JAY LETHAL VS. MICHAEL ELGIN FOR ROH TITLE
Lethal retained using the Lethal injection after Elgin went for a power bomb afer a Falcan arrow off the middle rope. Truth Martini tired to interfere but Elgin nailed him and his book went flying. Lethal grabbed i and when Elgin had him up for the power bomb, Lethal hit Elgin with the book and followed with a Lethal injection for the pin.
KENNY OMEGA VS. KUSHIDA FOR THE IWGP JR. TITLE
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Great match, with Kushida turning the One Winged Angel into a Kimura and then a cradle for the pin to win the title. Kushida wa great here and Omega did a tremendous job of selling the left arm during this match. The Bucks interfered helping Omega. Ryusuke Taguchi came out as Doc Brown from Back to the Future with Kushida. The Bucks took him out early with a double superkick. He came back and took out the Bucks with garbage can shots. Both did big dives and suepr crisp wrestling.
DOC GALLOWS & KARL ANDERSON VS. TOGI MAKABE & TOMOAKI HONMA FOR IWGP TAG TITLES
Another title change in a really good match. Crowd was really into Makabe & Honma from the start. The finish saw Makabe & Honma use the kokeshi impact (double impact with Honma using the head-butt spear off the top rope on Anderson, then Honma used the kokeshi off the top rope on Gallows, followed by Makabe using the kneedrop off the top rope on Gallows for the pin. Well timed well worked match. This is Honma’s first title win in New Japan.
Now it’s time for the 2016 scheudle.
New Beginning in Oskaa on 2/11
New Beginning in Niigat 2/14
ROH shows on 2/19 and 2.20 at Kroakejn Hall
ROH New Japan in Las Vegas 2/26 and 2/27
New Japan Cup 3/3 opens and 3/12 ends
Invasion Attack 4/10 at Sumo Hall
5/3 Fukuoka Wrestling Dontaku
6/6 Best of the Super Junior final in Sendai Sun Plaza Hall
6/19 Dominion at Osaka Jo Hall
G-1 Climax starts 7/18 in Sapporo
8/12, 8/13 and 8/14 at Sumo Hall ends the G-1
HIROOKI GOTO VS. TETSUYA NAITO
Goto pinned him in a surprise using the shouten kai. Very well wrestled match. Bushi and Evil interfered after a ref bump. Goto had blocked a low blow by Naito. Bushi went to blow green mist at Goto, who moved and Evil got it inthe face. Naito then hit the low blow and running cradle but Goto kicked out, used he head-butt and shouten kai. The inteference is getting old by this point in the show.
TOMOHIRO ISHII VS. KATSUYORI SHIBATA FOR NEVER OPEN WEIGHT TITLE
Shibata won the title clean with the penalty kick after a standing kick to the chest. There two just killed each other with kicks and clotheslines and elbows. I don’t know how these guys continue to do these kind of matches. Just ridiculously physical. The one thing I hated was they did some absolutely sick klunking head-butts to each other toward the end. A lot of people won’t like this not being traditional pro wrestling with the fired up no sell spots throughout the match but this felt like a fight from start to finish. It’s just hard to top some of the matches they’ve had in the past but a super match.
SHINSUKE NAKAMURA VS. A.J. STYLES FOR THE IC TITLE
Nakamura retained the title after a falcon arrow off the top rope, the bom a ye to the back of the head and then a regular bom a ye for the pin. After the match Nakamura offered his fist and Styles gave him a fist bump back. This was a match of the year candidate. There were so many great sequences and spots. Styles kicked out of a bom a ye off the middle rope, Nakamura used a flying armbar after Styles tried a spinning chiop, Styles used a half Styles clash which Nakamura kicked out of, because the full Styles clash is protected. Styles at one point acted like his back wass out and then got up and attacked Nakamura from behind. This was two of the best wrestlers in the world determined to have an incredible match. Styles seemed healthier than against Jay Lethal as he did more and was moving better. He didn’t fly as much and relied more on his wrestling, but it didn’t hurt the match at all.
KAZUCHIKA OKADA VS. HIROSHI TANAHASHI FOR IWGP TITLE’
Another incredible match. Okada retained the title after three rainmakers. There were a lot of buffeirng issues throghout this match so it was hard to get a full grip of it but it felt like a match of the year going way over 30 minutes. The crowd was so intense at the end but I’d have to rewatch to get the full effect of the match. Among the highlights were Okada kicking out of two high fly flows,Tanahashi kicked out of the rainmaker, Okada did the high fly flow for a near fall and Tanahashi did a rainmaker. Tanahashi went for a high fly flow late and Okada caught him with a dropkick which was right before the finish. It felt like this was the classic passing of the torch as Tanahashi had to be helped out while Okada was the one closing the show at the Tokyo Dome.
Gedo and Okada did promos after the match. No challenges after the match. The angles may be shot for the next top matches tomorrow night.