New Japan’s final show of 2018 sees the year end with the unlikely pairing of Hiroshi Tanahashi and Will Ospreay teaming up to take on the Golden Lovers. The chaotic year that was 2018 couldn’t have been captured better than what the main event promises to give us. Let’s get started!
Shota Umino & Ayato Yoshida vs Ren Narita & Teruaki Kanemitsu – 15 Minute Draw – **1/4
After a severe injury caused a 25 month absence, Teruaki Kanemitsu makes his return. He was Hirai Kawato’s young lion rival in 2016, even getting the better of him near the end of the year, before being put on the shelf for over two years. He now finds himself having to begin the process all over again. This was a really nice way to start off the show. Watching Kanemitsu make the climb again in 2019 will be a heartwarming story.
Rocky Romero, YOH & SHO def. Toa Henare, Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger & Tiger Mask IV @ 9:33 via 3K to Tiger – ***
The bond between Chaos and the New Japan army gets closer. Romero showed good will by shaking Liger’s hand both before and after the match. This was a really fiery performance from Henare. He ate two dropkicks from YOH, neither putting him down, caught YOH’s crossbody and turned it into a brainbuster and caught Romero’s Hurricanrana. Chaos landed the triple knee to put Henare down, Romero shot through with a tope, and Tiger was finished with the 3K. Really strong finish to the year for all six as they head into 2019 looking as if they’ll be on the same page.
Tomohiro Ishii & Hirooki Goto def. Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka @ 10:37 via Ishii Brainbuster to Iizuka – ***
Suzuki ends his 2018 up against the man he started the year off with in Goto and the man he finished with in Ishii. They started with the Suzuki-Gun brawl and Iizuka ran around biting everyone he could but the interactions with Suzuki were great. There were several callbacks like Suzuki escaping the Ushigoroshi into the Sleeper. Iizuka was the one who took the Ushigoroshi, immediately followed by the sliding lariat and finished with a brainbuster. Suzuki demolishes young lions on his way to the back.
EVIL & SANADA def. Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens @ 9:45 via Magic Killer on Owens – **
We saw the callback to Owens inability to trap SANADA in the Paradise Lock. SANADA got the lock in on Owens and EVIL and Yujiro traded Fisherman’s Buster attempts. EVIL lands Darkness Falls, hit Yujiro with a modified Indytaker and finish Owens with a Magic Killer. This was another year where neither Yujiro or Owens had much to do which made the match feel like it was just there. This wasn’t like the previous matches where there was something built in other than Yujiro and Owens being affiliated with EVIL and SANADA’s Wrestle Kingdom opponents.
Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI & Shingo Takagi def. Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado @ 13:40 via Naito Destino on Kanemaru – ***
This got ugly in more ways than one. Not only did Shingo get busted open, Chris Jericho made a statement by attacking after the match. He came from behind with a chair, took out all three members of LIJ, hit Naito’s pose and walked through the crowd on his way to the back. The match was good but really took a turn once Shingo started to bleed. It felt unintentional but it added an extra level to the feud between him and Suzuki-Gun. It’s interesting that Suzuki-Gun took all the falls this weekend and Desperado hasn’t been the one getting pinned. I’m hopeful for a big singles run from Desperado in 2019. I haven’t been the highest on the Naito/Jericho feud on paper but I’m sucked in every time he shows up.
White, Fale, Tama, Tanga & Ishimori def. Okada, Makabe, Yano, Honma & KUSHIDA @ 14:46 via Loa Apeshit on Honma – **3/4
With this being the final stop until Wrestle Kingdom, Okada goes on the attack before the bell. He wrestles like he knows this is his last chance to get his revenge on White this year and he doesn’t stop after the match. They stare each other down post-match but instead of walking off, Okada tries a sneak attack from behind. All this does is get him dropped with a Blade Runner. KUSHIDA tries to help but instead takes a Bloody Cross from Ishimori. This feud has been entirely one-sided. Both Okada and KUSHIDA will come into Wrestle Kingdom looking to start their 2019 better than how their 2018 ended.
Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi def. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Will Ospreay @ 28:47 via Golden Trigger on Ospreay – ****1/2
Complete insanity. After keeping the match relatively contained for the first half, the second was the descent into madness everyone was hoping this would be. The majority of the first half saw the Lovers bully Ospreay, continuously cutting him off, shoving Tanahashi off the apron and completely suffocating him. Ospreay looked to be on the comeback with a springboard crossbody but the Lovers caught him, dumped him over the top rope onto the outside, knocked Tanahashi off the apron yet again, and hit them both with the Cross Slash.
This lead directly into a You Can’t Escape combo on Tanahashi but Ospreay cut Omega off of top and Powerbombed Omega onto Ibushi, who was covering Tanahashi. Omega denied Tanahashi’s Slingblade, hits the Dragon suplex but Tanahashi bounces back up and delivers the Slingblade. Ibushi cuts Ospreay’s springboard off, looked for the German off the second but was met with an Ospreay enziguri into the springboard forearm. Again, Ibushi puts an end to Ospreay’s flurry, this time catching his Moonsault, Ospreay escapes the lawn dart but is dropped with a bridging German.
Omega looks to isolate Ospreay, hoists him up but Ospreay transitions into the Stundog Millionaire, flips through a Dragon suplex, lands an enziguri but Omega ends Ospreay’s flurry with a V-Trigger. Or did he? Ospreay came right back with a standing Spanish Fly, Robinson Special, goes to the top where Ibushi cuts off and looks to rana Ospreay but Ospreay lands on his feet.
Ibushi and Ospreay trade kicks, Ospreay floats into position for a powerbomb but Ibushi turns him inside out with a lariat. Tanahashi catches Ibushi’s overhead kick, transitions it into a reverse Dragon Screw but Omega comes in hot and drops Tanahashi with a Slingblade. Lovers set Ospreay up for the Golden Trigger, Tanahashi makes the save. Lovers set up for the Golden Shower but Ospreay’s had enough time and hits them both with a Spanish Fly off the top.
Tanahashi is quick to capitalize with the High Fly Flow, Ospreay follows with a Shooing Star Press, hoists Omega up for a Stormbreaker, Omega battles out and Ospreay does the same with the One-Winged Angel. Ibushi plants Ospreay with a Liger Bomb, Omega rushes in with a V-Trigger, sets up for the One-Winged Angel but Ospreay ranas through. Ibushi’s headkick hits Omega rather than Ospreay, Tanahashi and Ospreay hit simultaneous Straightjacket Germans. Lovers regroup, ground Ospreay with a double team Tombstone and finish him with the Golden Trigger. Omega and Ibushi celebrate as snow falls from the ceiling and that’s how we end 2018.
Excellent main event to what was an overall strong ending to 2018. This was a crazy year for New Japan. There were so many moving pieces, from long term factions breaking, old rivals to come together, to new stars being made. The deck has been reshuffled, thanks in large part to the return of Jay White, the addition of Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega’s IWGP Heavyweight Championship win. There’s a new Bullet Club and what seems to be a complete Chaos face turn. Both Omega and Ibushi are coming into Wrestle Kingdom as a singles champion, as does Jericho, all the while Okada spends his first Wrestle Kingdom since his 2012 return outside of the title picture. 2018 was complete madness and the main event of this show perfectly incapsulated the feeling.
Omega & Ibushi vs Tanahashi & Ospreay
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