9,152 gathered to Sumo Hall for the 2018 edition of King of Pro-Wrestling. One of the marquee events on the New Japan calendar, KOPW is always a show filled with must-see moments and this year is no different. The IWGP Heavyweight, Junior Heavyweight and Junior Tag Team titles are on the line as is the Wrestle Kingdom Briefcase. Tetsuya Naito has promised to reveal the newest member of LIJ so without further ado let’s get started!
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado (c) def. Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger & Tiger Mask IV @ 9:53 via Desperado Pinche Loco on Liger – ***1/4
The champions jumped the legends from behind as they made their way to the ring, ripping at their masks and beating them down with chairs on the outside. They isolated Tiger until he had enough, powering up and kicking his way through both before getting the tag to Liger. After coming out hot and dishing out three Shoteis, Liger climbs to the top for a Frankensteiner. Desperado tries to even the score but instead takes a backbreaker, followed by a headbutt from the top by Tiger, who slaps the taste out of Desperado’s mouth for his continued attempts at unmasking him. Kanemaru distracts the referee with a bottle of whiskey, sprays Tiger and Desperado finishes him with the Pinche Loco.
Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma def. Juice Robinson & Toa Henare @ 10:20 via Makabe King Kong Knee Drop on Henare – **3/4
Big Honma chant before the bell. Henare avoids the early Kokeshi and tags Juice in for a delayed vertical suplex. Henare goes the same route but Honma is able to overcome his power and deliver a suplex of his own. They each tag their respective partners and Makabe and Juice go at it. They exchange shots in the corner and a couple of Lariats back and forth which Makabe comes out on top of and tags Honma. He attempts a Kokeshi from the top but Juice cuts it off. Makabe and Henare trade Lariats, Honma comes in with a Kokeshi and Makabe finishes him with the King Kong Knee Drop. Makabe let Honma have his moment as Honma bowed to the crowd in appreciation.
Fale, Tama, Tanga & Ishimori def. Young Bucks, Page & Owens @ 12:07 via Tama Gun Stun on Owens – **1/2
They start off with two stalemates so both team rush the ring and resort to a shoving match. The BC Elite Superkick the BC OG to the outside where they continue the brawl. The OG isolate Matt and attacks his back, removing the belt and having Fale stand on top of him. Matt ducks a Stinger Splash, Superkicks Tanga and tags in Page who flurries with a Dropsault + Moonsault to the outside. Ishimori double Hurricanrans the Bucks out of the ring and follows with a Plancha while G.O.D. handle the rest. They pop Owens up and bring him down with the Gun Stun for the win. The BC OG continue the beatdown after winning the match. This wouldn’t be the last time we’d see them tonight.
Goto, Ishii & Ospreay def. Suzuki, Taichi & Iizuka @ 12:11 via Ospreay Stormbreaker on Taichi – **3/4
Suzuki comes out holding the RevPro title, Miho holding the NEVER title above her head and Iizuka meandering around the crowd. A section of the crowd wanted Taichi to go home but they were immediately drowned out by the portion who support him. Iizuka got the mask off and bit everyone he made eye contact with before tagging in Suzuki. Both he and Ishii have one of those wars only these two could have. Insane strike exchange between the two before tagging out to Ospreay and Taichi. Using their numbers, Suzuki-Gun cut Ospreay down every change they got. Ospreay’s teammates see enough, come in to even the score and giving Ospreays the opportunity to pull off a surprising win over Taichi. He then shocks the world by poses with the NEVER title. The exchange between Suzuki and Ishii paired with Ospreay’s challenge for the title made for a fun time even with the addition of Taichi and Iizuka.
Naito, SANADA, BUSHI & Shingo Takagi def. Okada, Yano, YOH & SHO @ 9:30 via Shingo Last of the Dragon on SHO – **1/4
The LIJ promotional video Naito dropped last week played again before they made their entrance. The newest member entered last, wearing the Ingoberable mask and removing it to reveal the face of Shingo Takagi. Dubbed “The Dragon”, the crowd went crazy for the reveal. He started off the match with YOH, sharing a chop exchange. Chaos were no match for LIJ even when Okada came in to try and even the score. BUSHI shot through the ropes with a Tope Suicida, giving Shingo the opening to finish SHO with Last Falconry, now dubbed Last of the Dragon. Anyone unfamiliar with Shingo didn’t get too much here but for those who know, this was exciting. If you’ve never seen Shingo before we’re in for a treat. He’s one of the most charismatic wrestlers on the planet. New Japan landed a big one here.
EVIL vs Zack Sabre Jr. – N/A
TAKA seconds Sabre and does his usual calls before telling EVIL to come out. EVIL is carried to the ring on a throne by masked druids. Just before making his way through the ropes, a masked man attacks EVIL from behind. He chokes EVIL with the cables, throws him into the ring and hit a Codebreaker before revealing his face. Chris Jericho has returned. He hits EVIL with the IC title, flexes and leaves. All the while, Sabre is on the outside looking confused and annoyed. Once Jericho leaves, Sabre goes on the attack but the referee throws out the match. It never officially started and EVIL is no longer in any shape to fight. This enrages Sabre. He attacks both the referee and EVIL until Naito runs in for the save. Naito then puts EVIL’s arm around him helps him to the back.
Fale announces on Twitter that Robbie Eagles will be Ishimori’s tag partner for next week’s tournament.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
KUSHIDA def. Marty Scurll @ 18:33 via Back to the Future – ***1/2
They start off very European by trading holds back and forth until Scurll knocks KUSHIDA out of the ring and hits a Superkick from the apron. Scurll ducks a desperation Enziguri and turns it into a Romero Special. KUSHIDA finds the ropes, lands that Enziguri, heads to the top but it cut off and dropped with a Suplex but cradles Scurll for a two count. This leads to them trading pin attempts until KUSHIDA tries for the Handspring back elbow which Scurll catches and turns into a backslide + Superkick combo. KUSHIDA successfully connects with the Handspring, heads to the top, gets cut off but manages to transition into a rolling cross armbreaker.
Scurll escapes by snapping KUSHIDA’s neck into the bottom rope and then locks KUSHIDA into the Chickenwing. KUSHIDA floats through only for Scurll to transition into the Hoverboard Lock, swings his way out, goes for the jumping DDT but misses and finds himself in the Chickenwing yet again. Scurll looks to finish with Graduation but KUSHIDA transitions into an Air Raid Crash. Scurll stomps the arm of KUSHIDA which makes the Hoverboard Lock impossible so KUSHIDA tries for Back to the Future but Scurll rolls it up and hits his own Package Driver for two. KUSHIDA rolls through the pin attempt, escapes the Chickenwing, drops Scurll for Back to the Future and follows up with a second which scores him the win.
Wrestle Kingdom Briefcase
Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) def. Jay White @ 20:41 via Small Package – ***3/4
The bell rings and White immediately bails to the outside to the chorus of boos and chants of ‘Go Ace’. He backs Tanahashi into the ropes and fakes a clean break, instead taking Tanahashi to the outside and driving him into the rails. Tanahashi fires back by sending White into the rails and dropkicks him into the crowd. Gedo sneaks up from behind, distracting Tanahashi and allowing White to recover and attack Tanahashi with a chop block. White is merciless in his targetting of the knee, even picking up Tanahashi’s leg and using it as guitar taunt. Gedo gets in on the targeting too while White distracts the referee.
White wakes Tanahashi up by slapping him on the back of the head. Now, it’s on. Tanahashi begins delivering the same punishment, going after the knees of White with repeated Dragon Screws. White desperately suplexes Tanahashi over the top and drives him into the rails before grabbing a chair. The referee stops White which gives Tanahashi the opening for the Dragon Screw across the ropes. White bails to the outside where Tanahashi meets him with a High Fly Flow from the top rope. Tanahashi is on fire, running through two chops by White but is caught with a Flatliner + German suplex combo. They trade strikes and Tanahashi flurries only for White to pull his hair. Tanahashi delivers a big slaps, goes for a Slingblade but White sidesteps, attempts a Blade Runner but Tanahashi lands a couple of Twist & Shouts instead.
A distraction by Gedo leads to another attempted Blade Runner but Tanahashi transitions to a Dragon suplex and lands a top rope crossbody, followed by the High Fly Flow. Gedo pulls the referee out before the count of three, puts on the brass knuckles, Tanahashi ducks and slaps Gedo only for White to ground him with a low blow. White comes charging in with a chair but takes a low blow from Tanahashi, manages to roll out of the way of a High Fly Flow and throws the chair at Tanahashi’s face. Gedo slides the referee back in the ring, White sets up for Blade Runner but Tanahashi rolls him up into a Small Package for the win.
White attacks Tanahashi post-match, leading to Okada making the save. Jado comes to even the numbers for Okada and the Bc OG make their way to the ring. Fale traps Gedo and invites Okada to attack. As Okada charges in, Tama plants him with a Gun Stun. Whites comes in and adds a Blade Runner to Okada. White, Gedo, Jado and the BC OG Too Sweet each other and head to the back. Tanahashi crawls to the downed Okada and stares at him with a confused look before making his way to the back.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Kenny Omega (c) def. Kota Ibushi & Cody @ 34:14 via One-Winged Angel on Ibushi – ***1/4
All three hug before the match but the friendliness wouldn’t last long. Cody looked to take advantage early, sending Ibushi over the ropes but Ibushi would rebound and send Cody out, look for the Golden Triangle only for Omega to cut that off. The Lovers doubled Cody and traded pin attempts before doubling again with the You Can’t Escape combo. Cody escaped the combo mid-Ibushi Moonsault and Omega took advantage by setting Ibushi up for the One-Winged Angel. Ibushi fought out and starred at Omega, hurt. Omega apologized and they continued their focus on Cody.
Upset, Cody tells Omega they’re friends too and they should double team Ibushi. Omega obliges and they look to suplex Ibushi together but Cody pulls up mid-move and rolls up Omega for two. Cody locks Omega into a Figure Four but Ibushi kicks them both in the chest and hits a standing Moonsault to break it up. Ibushi has another Golden Triangle broken up, Cody attempts to hit him with Crossroads off the apron but Omega cuts that off and Powerbombs Cody through an announce table.
Alone, Omega and Ibushi trade strikes and just as Ibushi looks for the Phoenix Splash, Cody reappears and puts a stop to it. He hits a Destroyer on Omega but can’t follow with the Vertibreaker, eating a V-Trigger instead. Omega puts Cody on the top and looks for a suplex but Ibushi pulls Omega off the top and looks for a move of hi own. Omega pulls Ibushi off and Powerbombs him into Cody, sets up for the One-Winged Angel but Ibushi fight out and Lawn Darts Omega into Cody. Ibushi Powerbombs Cody, drops with a Straightjacket German and Kamigoye. The referee begins his count but Omega grabs his arm and prevents the three.
Ibushi is so upset he can’t even look Omega in the eyes. Ibushi unleashes something fierce, peppering both Omega and Cody with a series of palm strikes. He mounts Omega and unloads. The referee pulls Ibushi off but he charges Omega and grounds him with a Boma Ye. Before Ibushi could hit a Kamigoye, Cody lands Crossroads on Omega, makes the cover but sees Ibushi coming off the top with a stomp and moves so that Ibushi lands on Omega and hits another Crossroads. Omega manages to kick out at two. Cody is upset, grabs a chair and the crowd boos. He throws the chair down, they cheer. He grabs the US title, they boo. He throws it to the Bucks, they cheer. He grabs the chair again and they laugh. Ibushi pulls the chair away from Cody, gives him a headkick, Omega comes from behind with a Hurricanrana, Double Underhook Piledriver, V-Trigger and finishes Ibushi with the One-Winged Angel.
Omega and Tanahashi meet face-to-face to close out the show.
This was a heck of a show. On top of the great wrestling we got:
– A new member of LIJ: Shingo Takagi
– New members of BC OG: White, Gedo, Jado
– A junior challenging for the NEVER title: Ospreay
– Okada saving Tanahashi
– A Chris Jericho sighting
Every title match (Heavy, Junior, Briefcase, Jr. Tag) was great. There wasn’t anything I’d consider a “match of the year contender” but as a whole, this was a very strong show.
Tanahashi vs White
KUSHIDA vs Scurll
Junior Tag Title
Omega vs Ibushi vs Cody