The time has finally come! The culmination to 2018. Everything leads to Wrestle Kingdom 13. There’s no better time to be a wrestling fan than right now. Let’s get started!
NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship #1 Contender Gauntlet
Yuji Nagata, Jeff Cobb & David Finlay def. Hangman Page, Yujiro Takahashi & Marty Scurll @ 4:40 via Finlay School Boy on Yujiro
The match started out between Nagata and Scurll. They exchanged fakeout low dropkicks to the knee. The Elite flurry on Cobb with Yujiro providing the trip, Scurll a Superkick and Page a standing Shooting Star Press. Chase Owens trips Finlay from the outside and hooks him on the apron but Finlay ducked the attack from Yujiro, knocking Owens off the apron. Page shoves Yujiro and Finlay takes advantage of the distraction by rolling up Yujiro for the elimination.
Yuji Nagata, Jeff Cobb & David Finlay def. Hirooki Goto, Beretta & Chuckie T. @ 12:10 via Finlay School Boy on Chuckie T.
Chaos come out with an attack before the bell. Chuckie hits a tope con hilo and Beretta follows with an Asai Moonsault. Goto drops Nagata with an Ushigoroshi but Nagata is quick to fire up and land a couple of suplexes. Cobb lands a couple of his own, dropping Beretta and Chuckie with a double Pumphandle. Finlay got his second pinfall by dodging a Moonsailt off the top by Chuckie and rolling him up for another elimination.
Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. def. Yuji Nagata, Jeff Cobb & David Finlay @ 14:55 via Killer Bomb on Finlay
In the vein of Chaos, Suzuki-Gun too attack before the bell. Nagata and Suzuki have a strike exchange early and Nagata drops him with an Exploder. They brawl to the outside while Smith and Archer take control by evading a standing Moonsault by Cobb and take care of Finlay with the Killer Bomb for the elimination.
Togi Makabe, Toru Yano & Ryusuke Taguchi def. Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. @ 23:05 via Yano School Boy on Smith Jr.
Suzuki-Gun attack their final challengers on their entrance. They throw their opponents into the rails and when they manage to get inside, Archer nails Taguchi with Old School. Suzuki and Makabe have an extended strike exchange that sees Makabe get trapped in position for the Gotch-style Piledriver. Taguchi frees Makabe with a hip attack and Makabe lands a double lariat on Smith and Archer, allowing a sneak attack double low blow from Yano and rolls Smith up for the win.
All of the exchanges were fun. The pace was quick and there was never a dull moment. A nice preshow opener.
Announcements were made before the proper opening. The big one’s being this year’s G1 Climax will have a show in Dallas, Texas and next year’s Wrestle Kingdom will be split into two back-to-back shows.
NEVER Openweight Championship
Will Ospreay def. Kota Ibushi (c) @ 18:13 via Storm Breaker – ****1/4
In what may be seen as somewhat of a shock, a match between two of the world’s best high-flyers was instead a match centered heavily around strikes. Ospreay faked a dive early, causing Ibushi to charge in and grabs both wrists, looking for a Kamigoye. Soon after, Ibushi attempts the Golden Triangle Moonsault but is met with a PK mid-rotation by Ospreay. This was an extremely brutal match. Ibushi would fights his way out of the Storm Breaker by hitting a Frankensteiner, follow up with a Boma Ye and directly lead into the Last Ride Powerbomb. Ospreay would soon after cut him off on top and on the fall, Ibushi got caught up in the ropes, leading to a flurry of stomps to the head from Ospreay. The match ended with a scary elbow strike to the back of the head and Ospreay dropping Ibushi with the Storm Breaker. Ibushi was stretchered out after the match in a very scary scene to end what was a much more physical match than could have been anticipated. Completely insane all around.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Shingo Takagi & BUSHI def. Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado (c) and Roppongi 3K @ 6:51 via Shingo Last of the Dragon on SHO – **3/4
This served mainly as a showcase for Shingo’s dominance over the junior division. 3K started hot with topes and flew around the ring but Shingo’s speed to accompanied by power no one else in the match can handle. It was SHO who stepped up to him but he was no match for Shingo. There with Pumping Bombers to the both the front and back of the neck, Blood Fall and Last of the Dragon to win. The champions weren’t the ones pinned, it was 3K who had the trouble handling the bruiser.
RPW British Heavyweight Championship
Zack Sabre Jr. def. Tomohiro Ishii (c) @ 11:36 via Jim Breaks Armbar – ****1/4
Two guys who know each other well, each coming in with a pair of wins over the other. They showed their familiarity early on by ducking kicks and trading go-behinds. It was Sabre who pretty much dominated the entire match. He used his familiarity with Ishii to know when the strikes were coming, even eating a Superplex with the knowledge of how he could transition that into his favor once they’re back on the mat. Ishii tried to out muscle Sabre with a chop to the throat and a sliding a lariat but he wasn’t able to string together more than a couple of moves before Sabre found a way to transition the match back into his control. The limited offense of Ishii came into play when he telegraphed yet another lariat which Sabre duked and turned into an octopus hold before taking it to the mat for the finish. This match told a beautiful story and they managed to keep it to the point with absolutely no wasted motion.
IWGP Tag Team Championship
EVIL & SANADA def. Guerrillas of Destiny (c) & The Young Bucks @ 10:14 via SANADA Moonsault on Matt – ***1/4
Like the junior tag was a showcase for Shingo, the heavyweight tag was similarly a showcase for SANADA. Everyone got more time to shine than in the junior match but it was SANADA landing four consecutive planchas to each of his opponents, twisting them into pretzels, overcoming ever obstacle and finding a way to win with the Moonsault. Everyone did a really good job. Tey played up more of the Matt Jackson back issues, G.O.D. played up their new leaf direction early on by refusing to break holds and instead encouraging their opponents to get to the ropes. The finishing stretch saw Nick cut off the Super Powerbomb by landing a Hurricanrana, Tama cutting off the Indytaker with a Gun Stun and SANADA winning with a Moonsault.
IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship
Juice Robinson def. Cody (c) @ 9:05 via Pulp Friction – **1/2
Cody came in looking to win by any means necessary. He took a swing at Juice with the belt before the bell, Brandi came in to help twice, one time getting physical with Juice which lead to her getting ejected. Juice kicked out of a Cross Rhodes and ended up getting so frustrated by all of the shenanigans that he hit Cody with one of his own. Cody went to the well one too many times with the Disaster Kicks that Juice was able to fire off the Left Hand of God on his way down. Juice wasn’t satisfied after one Pulp Friction. He refused the pin until he hit a second, which won him his U.S. title back and makes him the first ever two time champion. There was a lot of silly shenanigans from Cody and Brandi, not the most creative in-ring wrestling either, but Juice getting the feel-good win was a nice way to cap off the match.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship
Taiji Ishimori def. KUSHIDA (c) @ 11:18 via Bloody Cross – **1/2
Coming into the night this was one of the matches I was most excited to see. I thought that with the building they had done throughout the Wotld Tag League, they’d come in with some nice fast-paced action. Instead we saw a lot of submissions as both guys tried to grind the other down so they couldn’t heat up. While that’s fine in theory, KUSHIDA was eating moves and deciding to not sell them, instead transitioning into more submissions. The match flow was pretty wonky and overall lifeless apart from the closing stretch that saw Ishimori land a kneelift into a double stomp and finish with a Bloody Cross.
Special Singles Match
Jay White def. Kazuchika Okada @ 14:18 via Blade Runner – ***1/2
Rainmaker Okada came out in full form, shorts included! Gedo helped White take control early but Okada managed to land the corner dropkick which sent White to the outside where Okada was able to hit them both with a crossbody over the guardrails. He brought White back in, hit the Rainmaker pose, but White ducked, dropped him with the Flatliner + Deadlift German. Gedo helped once again by sliding a chair in the ring before distracting the referee, allowing White an opportunity to strike. Okada ducks the chair but is unable to land the Rainmaker and is dropped with a Sleeper Suplex and Kiwi Crusher. They trade slaps, White ducks another Rainmaker but eats the Discuss version which still isn’t enough to keep him from ducking one more Rainmaker and transition it into a Blade Runner for the win. They’ve built really strong chemistry between these two. The crowd was behind Okada getting his revenge but White’s pairing with Gedo has made him too much for Okada to handle.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Tetsuya Naito def. Chris Jericho (c) @ 22:26 via Destino – ****
With this no being a ‘No Disqualification’ match, Naito wasted no time going after Jericho before the bell. They brawled to the outside where Naito drove Jericho head first into the ramp with a Piledriver. Jericho as soon to return the favor by hitting an insane and gross looking DDT onto the announce table. This was the best Jericho has looked since coming to New Japan. With both his vision of his character coming more into focus and gaining more chemistry with Naito, they killed it this time around. He hit his signature fun Jericho spots like the Lionsault and springboard dropkick while also understanding who Naito is, hitting his poses and reveling in the crowd’s hatred. Naito had his moments to shine, getting a hold of Jericho’s Singapore Cane and winding up like a lead off batter. Jericho involved chairs in the match which came back to haunt him when Naito dropped him with a DDT. He tried to get the win how he did last time with a low blow into a Codebreaker but Naito wasn’t to be denied. The title was Jericho’s next option but that too backfired as it was him who took the belt to the face before he was finished with a Destino. Naito seems to be destined for the IC title. Everywhere he goes it follows him. He looks to have accepted it, deciding to take it with him to the back. If this was the end of Jericho in New Japan, it was a great way to go out. His vision of his character looks to have been actualized. I’d welcome him back if he did decide he wants to continue wrestling for the company.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Hiroshi Tanahashi def. Kenny Omega (c) @ 39:17 via High Fly Flow – *****
By the end of the build for this match it was done so well that it divided the fanbase. The anomosity these two have for one another was so palatable and lead to a match that forced fans to take a side. This was truly a match perfect for a Wrestle Kingdom main event. The first five minutes saw slaps traded back and forth and Tanahashi call back to NJPW founder, Antonio Inoki with a Cobra Twist and Omega would later respond with nods to Keiji Mutoh. Tanahashi called back to former Bullet Club leader, AJ Styles, by hitting a Styles Clash which Omega would respond by stealing Tanahashi’s Slingblade and High Fly Flow. When Tanahashi stated in interviews leading up to the match that Omega’s style lacked grace, Omega took that to heart, even taking time in the match to pull out a table and mockingly call himself graceless. Although Tanahashi turned his nose up to Omega’s style, he wasn’t above using the table Omega set up. That would cost him as he came up empty with a High Fly Flow from the top, through the table on the floor. Tanahashi would also take the time to land a Bridging Dragon Suplex in what could be seen as a shot at Omega’s “graceless” snap Dragon. Omega would go for the kill with that same move when he went for and hit a top rope version that turned Tanahashi inside out. The animosity was played so perfectly. Both men were so stubborn in their ways. Tanahashi would try to take the V-Trigger out of Omega’s arsenal but Omega would refuse to change. Omega attacked the body relentlessly but Tanahashi wouldn’t stop trying for the High Fly Flow. Two men wanting to do things their way. In the end, Tanahashi was the way able to pull out the win. This was professional wrestling at its best. The way they were able to weave their story through various ways up and down this match was nothing short of incredible. A textbook Wrestle Kingdom main event. The highest of all levels.
Post-match, Tanahashi ushers in the new era and thanks the fans, sending everyone home happy.
All titles change hands! A clean sweep tonight for the challengers as each title sees a new champion. As far as structure goes, there was a dip in the middle but the show rebounded nicely in the final three matches. The main event was a perfect mix of story and athleticism. A prime example of what wrestling can be when performed at its best. It also can’t be overstated how srong the diversity in styles were all throughout the card. This was a very strong show, even with a saggy middle, and ended on the absolute high. There’s good reason Wrestle Kingdom is believed to be the best show in professional wrestling and that was on full display tonight.
Tanahashi vs Omega
Sabre vs Ishii
Ospreay vs Ibushi
Naito vs Jericho
White vs Okada
LIJ vs G.O.D. vs Bucks
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