Wrestle Kingdom 14 – Tokyo Dome – 04-05/01/20 (and New Years Dash)

Wrestle Kingdom 14 posterAfter one of their most successful years to date in expanding not just into North America but with their first fully fledged UK show too with Royal Quest back in August, New Japan Pro-Wrestling began their 2020 with their annual 14th January Wrestle Kingdom in Tokyo Dome show — expanded to two nights and with essentially a triple main event under the name of the ‘Double Gold Dash’ with a unifying of the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships on the line.

Even before the show started it was clear that it would be one of the highest attended in years (eventually with night one having 40,000 in attendance and night two more than 30,000) while it also marked the final two matches for the legendary Jushin Thunder Liger who rounded off a more than thirty decade in-ring career at the show.

Saturday, January 4th

Pre-Show

Toa Henare and Yota Tsuji
Toa Henare and Yota Tsuji

As is usual a couple of matches were staged as a pre-show but included on the feed from the NJPW World streaming service. Unfortunately not included was the Stardom promotion women’s tag team match but hopefully that will surface somewhere as it marked a first for Wrestle Kingdom.

The pair of matches presented were both short Tag Team affairs with the first designed to showcase some of the current crop of Young Lions pitting a trio from the LA Dojo along with Toa Henare against a pair from the Tokyo Dojo along with Tomoaki Honma and Togi Makabe of GBH.

Satoshi Kojima and Manabu Nakanishi
Nakanishi locks the torture rack on Kojima

Though the match was short the newcomers all got to show their skills while the more established stars got their moves in with Henare getting the win over Young Lion Yota Tsuji.

The second match was a legends affair with Satoshi Kojima & Hirioshi Tenzan facing Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata. Again all four had their moments but it seemed to me Nakanishi got to shine most though he eventually fell to a lariat from Kojima.

Main Show

Jushin Thunder Liger
Jushin Thunder Liger enters the Tokyo Dome

Jushin Thunder Liger Retirement Match One
Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask, The Great Sasuke & Tatsumi Fujinami vs Ryusuke Taguchi, Tatsuhito Takaiwa, Shinjiro Ootani & Naoki Sano

The main show began with the first of Jushin Liger’s pair of retirement matches, this one throwing back to the past as he teamed with some of his longtime allies against a team of key rivals with both ring announcing and refereeing duties taken by past legends in their fields too.

Given the ages of some of those taking part it was a surprisingly smooth match with Great Sasuke in particular still taking some crazy risks and even if they are limited its great seeing legends like Fujinami in the ring.

Jushin Thunder Liger and Ryusuke Taguchi
Taguchi hits Liger with his Funky Weapon

Unsurprisingly the bulk of the heavy lifting was done by Tiger Mask, Liger and Taguchi with the man with the ‘Funky Weapon’ getting the win over ‘The Beast God’ in a nostalgia heavy treat to kick off the main part of the show.

Los Ingobernables De Japon (BUSHI, Shingo Takagi, EVIL & SANADA) vs Suzuki-Gun (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr, Taichi & El Desperado)

As is fairly common for NJPW events a few short and largely disposable multi-man tag matches are par for the course but given some of the men involved in this would be facing off the following night there was a little more interest.

Zack Sabre Jr and SANADA
SANADA attempts the Paradise Lock on Sabre

Before they even reached the ring Suzuki-Gun did something worthy of note entering to British Champion Zack Sabre Jr’s theme music rather than their leader Minoru Suzuki’s, but from there it was much as expected with The King’s team jump starting things and the action spilling to the floor just as quickly.

In the ring the main interest came when Sabre and SANADA faced off ahead of their championship match the following night and it was Sabre who claimed victory for his team with the ‘Clarky Cat’ armbar submission on BUSHI.

After the match SANADA tried to make his own statement, attempting to apply Skull End on Sabre and the mood of rivalry was definitely set for the following night.

Chaos (Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI, Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) vs Bullet Club (KENTA, Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi)

Hirooki Goto and Yujiro Takahashi
Goto delivers the GTR to Takahashi

In another encounter that and the feel of a glorified warm up match the massed ranks of Chaos faced off with Bullet Club.

Given the quality of the competitors, the match was as solid as you’d expect but with it largely unspectacular save for some teases of Hirooki Goto and KENTA’s upcoming clash for the NEVER Openweight Championship and Tomohiro Ishii improbably lifting Bad Luck Fale and delivering a vertical drop brainbuster to the big man.

When it was all said and done it was Goto who got the momentum going into the second day’s title match as he pinned Yujiro Takahashi.

IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Guerrillas Of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa w/ Jado) (c) vs FINJUICE (Juice Robinson and David Finlay)

With the warm ups well and truly out of the way the IWGP Tag Team Championship match kicked off what felt like the second part of the show with the unlikely winners of 2019 World Tag League FINJUICE taking on Bullet Club’s Guerrillas Of Destiny.

Magic Killer
GoD hit the Magic Killer

Taking the fight to the Tongans, FINJUICE started the action half way down the ramp, which seemed like a good idea until both men were wiped out and GoD moved the action back into the ring.

From here was the relatively junior David Finlay who became the star of the match, having recently returned from shoulder surgery he was the focus of GoD’s ire as Juice recovered outside the ring.

Of course a hot tag eventually came but GoD remained dominant, though they never quite managed to land the finishing blow to either adversary with Finlay in particular surviving attempts at the Magic Killer, a top rope super power bomb and a cane shot from ‘Master Heater’ Jado.

FINJUICE
FINJUICE victorious

Fighting through all of this Juice hit his Left Hand Of God on Tanga Loa setting up Finlay to deliver an Acid Drop and claim his first gold in New Japan and a first Tag Team Championship for FINJUICE.

While the match felt a bit disjointed and rushed in places, never quite settling down as a match should, the happy ending of perennial underdogs FINJUICE winning the gold was a great moment and Finlay came out looking like a new star, and it was great to see him finally getting his due after the amount of work he’s put in over the last few years.

IWGP United States Championship
Texas Deathmatch
Lance Archer (c) vs Jon Moxley

Lance Archer and Jon Moxley
Archer swings the cane at Moxley

New Japan aren’t known for their ‘gimmick’ matches so the fact that this match between two wrestlers well known for their extreme styles was billed as a Texas Deathmatch was a definite treat that played to both men’s strengths.

With the stipulation being that you could only win by submission or incapacitating your opponent for a 10 count the scene was set and both went all in from the start with Moxley looking to retain the belt he never lost from an Archer revived since his long time tag team partner Davy Boy Smith Jr left the promotion.

It wasn’t long before chairs and kendo sticks were brought into play with both men giving and receiving genuinely brutal looking shots before Young Lion Gabriel Kidd was used by Archer as a kind of projectile weapon on Moxley.

Lance Archer and Jon Moxley - Death Rider
Moxley drives Archer through the table with Death Rider

Both men had their chances and Archer survived a double arm DDT and reversed Moxley’s Death Rider in the ring, but it was a Death Rider from the ring apron through a pair of tables on the floor that put the American Psycho out and gave Moxley his second US Title in New Japan.

Coming a year after the event that, supposedly, caused the then Dean Ambrose to want to leave WWE, this win had a certain significance which, combined with the apparently less than great relationship between AEW, where Moxley also appears, and New Japan could make this one of the most intriguing stories in pro-wrestling this year — that’s if the new champ could get past challenger Juice Robinson the following night.

IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship
Will Ospreay (c) vs Hiromu Takahashi

Hiromu Takahashi and Will Ospreay
Hiromu and Ospreay face off

If there can be such a thing as a dream rematch then this clash between the Aerial Assassin and the Ticking Time Bomb is it, as the two standouts of the current generation of New Japan’s Jr Heavyweight class faced off once more in a match many thought would never happen after Takahashi suffered a broken neck nearly two years ago.

With the build for the match having been typically eccentric but respectful the contest started with the pair going back and forth and Hiromu showing he has lost nothing following his injury before Ospreay unveiled his more forceful and arrogant side focusing his attacks on the neck of his challenger.

Hiromu Takahashi and Will Ospreay
Ospreay hits a flying dropkick to Hiromu

The highlight sequence of the match, and possibly the whole weekend going by the number of times the gif of it has appeared on my social media timelines, came when Ospreay attempted a Space Flying Tiger Drop only to be reversed into a genuinely tremendous exchange spanning the ring, floor and Ospreay soaring through the air.

As the match went on Ospreay kept the advantage but Hiromu survived every attack including the Hidden Blade and countering the Storm Breaker into a Canadian Destroyer.

Equally though the British high flyer wasn’t subdued by a Dynamite Plunger or even Takahashi’s Time Bomb finisher.

At this point the Hiromu unleashed a new manoeuvre, a modified, more devastating, version of the Time Bomb that finally put Ospreay’s shoulders down for the three culminating a great comeback story and a brilliantly structured match that genuinely had all the feeling of a fully fledged main event, something both men have said is their ambition to achieve for the Jr Heavyweight division.

Hiromu Takahashi and Will Ospreay
Time Bomb II

With Ospreay hinting at a more intense and forceful demeanour the ending may have left me asking what’s next for Will, but this looks like the beginning of another stand out year as he may, finally, be able to move beyond the restraints of being seen as ‘just a Jr Heavyweight’.

IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Jay White w/ Gedo (c) vs Tetsuya Naito

And so we come to the actual double main event of the first night of Wrestle Kingdom 14 and the start of what, at least English language commentator Kevin Kelly has called, the ‘Double Gold Dash’ that will see one man leave the event a dual Intercontinental and Heavyweight Champion for the first time in NJPW history.

Jay White and Tetsuya Naito
White taunts Naito in a figure-4 leglock

Despite the fact there are four men involved it’s hard to argue that, as Tetsuya Naito, leader of Los Ingobernables De Japon, made his way to the ring, his story is the most detailed and compelling.

Having fallen short by circumstance more than skill a number of times when looking to claim IWGP Heavyweight gold while having a tumultuous relationship with both the holder of that title and the IWGP Intercontinental Championship in general and because of this he was, arguably, the majority of the fans pick to win even if it somehow still feels unlikely.

His opponent meanwhile, Bullet Club leader Jay White, is certainly the least popular in the eyes of the fans but is also the man who has won against the odds (usually thanks to cornerman Gedo) time and again.

Jay White and Tetsuya Naito
DESTINO!

With White in seemingly terminally overconfident mode he began the match trying to frustrate Naito by stalling and leaving the ring but the ‘tranquilo’ master wasn’t going to be flustered and this backfired on the kiwi putting Naito on the offensive until the inevitable interference from Gedo that saw a steel chair taken to Naito’s previously injured knee making this damage the story of the match to come.

From there White countered any offence from Naito by returning to the knee, but the ungovernable one refused to stay down leading Gedling to get involved again once White had caused referee Red Shows Uno to be incapacitated.

Despite this Naito still wouldn’t quit countering White’s Blade Runner into his Destino for a near fall before the end eventually came with a counter to another Blade Runner into a modified brain buster before a third Destino sealed the victory and the championship for Naito taking him a step closer to his apparent destiny in a match that contained its own tremendous internal story while feeling totally like a crucial part of a much larger one.

IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Kota Ibushi

Kota Ibushi and Kazuchika Okada
Ibushi and Okada battle it out

If Naito’s story over this weekend was looking like some kind of destiny, Kota Ibushi entered the event as the eternal underdog gradually clawing his way to the top, having won the G1 tournament last summer to earn his shot at, arguably, the best and most prolific IWGP Heavyweight Champion of all time Kazuchika Okada.

Unlike all the other competitors in the double main event Ibushi looked to be all business with no fancy new capes or spectacular light shows and it was with this approach that he headed into the match, though at first he looked a little off step and maybe cautious and nervous challenging for the Heavyweight Belt in the Tokyo Dome for the first time.

It wasn’t long though before he settled in and with Okada gradually built the spectacle and drama over around 40 minutes of action.

Kota Ibushi and Kazuchika Okada
KAMIGOYE!

With both men surviving relatively early attempts to finish the match it was Ibushi who seemed to switch into a new gear first with a scary, dead eyed, look as he attacked Okada hard and fast with strikes that were at once fantastic and terrifying.

After surviving a particularly vicious looking tombstone piledrvier on the ring apron Ibushi delivered a dead lift German suplex from the second rope that was astonishing, particularly so far into a match like this, and he continued by escaping a Rainmaker and hitting a range of moves that, against other wrestlers, would have won him the match easily, including his version of the Bomaye and even the Kamigoye!

Kota Ibushi and Kazuchika Okada
Ibushi deadlift suplexes Okada

A missed Pheonix Splash from Ibushi led to a Rainmaker by Okada by that only garnered a two count, but the champion countered another Kamigoye to hit a Fire Thunder Driver, followed by a particularly hard hitting Rainmaker to retain his title.

While on paper the structure of the match may have been very similar to past Okada led main events he is so good at this it doesn’t stand out too much in the watching (certainly not as much as the Flair formula) and Ibushi more than stood up alongside the champion to deliver a spectacle that told a great story of the challenger getting oh so close, only to be defied time and again.

With this it firmly positioned Ibushi (if he wasn’t already) as a bonafide main event star and a future champion and, while I’d like to have seen him win the belt here, given what was to come the ‘safer bet’ and bigger ongoing story of Okada vs Naito makes more sense and has the more established ongoing story heading into night two.

Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito
Okada and Naito face off to end night one

As a whole the first day of Wrestle Kingdom 14 had some really great top level moments, and while the two early eight man tag team matches (not the Liger one) maybe felt a little surplus to requirements on a card that ran nearly five hours and the lack of Tanahashi on January 4th felt strange even for a relatively new fan, overall this was a great standalone show and set a high bar for night two.

Sunday, January 5th

Pre-show

Los Ingobernables De Japon
Los Ingobernables De Japon

Another staple of the Wrestle Kingdom pre-show and warm up matches is the NEVER Six-Man Tag Team Championship gauntlet and this year was no different with the second day kicking off with it as champions Ryusuke Taguchi, Toru Yano and Togi Makabe defended their titles against four other teams.

While the match was short it was a spirited and fast paced affair with Chaos’ most recent recruit Robbie Eagles really standing out along with Los Ingobernables De Japon’s Shingo Takagi who scored the decisive fall on Taguchi to claim the belts for his team also comprised of BUSHI and EVIL.

Main Show

Jushin Thunder Liger Retirement Match Two

Jushin Thunder Liger and Hiromu Takahashi
Liger locks Hiromu in the Romero Special

Jushin Thunder Liger & Naoki Sano vs Hiromu Takahashi & Ryu Lee

So after 5,331 matches (according to commentator Chris Charlton) the career of Jushin Thunder Liger was set to come to an end as he teamed up with old rival Sano against two of the top of the current Jr Heavyweight crop, new IWGP Jr Heavyweight Champion Hiromu Takahashi and Ring Of Honor TV Champion Ryu Lee (previously know as Dragon Lee).

As with his match the previous night Liger didn’t hold back and engaged in a quick and strong opening sequence with Hiromu before Lee entered the fray and the younger pair took the, comparatively, heel role in the match.

Jushin Thunder Liger and Hiromu Takahashi
Hirmou hits the Time Bomb on Liger

While not as featured, Sano also had his moments which were impressive for his age but it was Liger who ran through all his ‘greatest hits’ to the delight of the Tokyo Dome crowd.

Ultimately it was Hiromu who caught the retiring legend with his Time Bomb finishing driver to claim victory and its testament to Liger’s manner and professionalism that he went out on his back in both matches this weekend, though it was clear after the match the amount of emotion and respect being shown by the younger grapplers for the real life superhero.

IWGP Jr Tag Team Championship
El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori (c) vs Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH w/ Rocky Romero)

Bullet Club and Roppongi 3k
Bullet Club hit a spinning neckbereaker combo on Roppongi 3k

Since his adoption into Bullet Club the previously crowd favourite El Phantasmo has, along with Taiji Ishmori, carved out a furrow of being despicably arrogant bad guys in the best of ways and they were in full flow of that as they entered the Tokyo Dome as Jr Heavyweight Tag Team Champions.

SHO & YOH meanwhile have become consummate examples of this style of tag team wrestling, so the two teams clashing here felt like a perfect pairing and they proceeded to put on a match that, while fairly standard in terms of its format, was executed as smoothly as anything you’re likely to see.

Roppongi 3k
Roppongi 3k celebrate

A highlight moment came as the challengers countered an attempt at their own 3K flatliner finisher with a Destroyer piledriver and it was mentor Rocky Romero’s ‘sneaky style’ trick of wearing some extra protection that allowed the challengers to combat their opponents cheating ways and hit their own spectacular package piledriver combination to claim the belts once more.

While clearly intended as a fast paced palette cleanser between the emotion of the previous match and the more established talent later in the show this was a very good match in its own right and continued to show not just the popularity but the quality of the New Japan Jr Heavyweight division right now.

Zack Sabre Jr and SANADA
Sabre attempts the Clarky Cat on SANADA

RevPro Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship
Zack Sabre Jr (c) vs SANADA

Having had an up and down year in 2019, including losing the British Heavyweight Championship to Tanahashi at Royal Quest before reclaiming it, Zack Sabre Jr looked to start 2020 on a high while LIJ’s SANADA looked to claim a championship as he continues to try and make his mark as a solo wrestler.

Zack Sabre Jr and SANADA
SANADA locks in Skull End

The pair started with some fast groundwork and a series of quick pin attempts that saw SANADA frustrate ZSJ, something that has been the British wrestlers downfall in the past, but here he weathered the storm and turned the tide locking in the Clarky Cat armbar in counter to a moonsault (along with a great Cake reference from Charlton on commentary).

From there the pair exchanged sequences of holds, punctuated by stiff strikes including an almost flying PK from Sabre at one point, before SANADA looked for his Skull End submission.

Sabre reversed though only to be reversed himself and as the pair reversed pin for pin until it was Sabre who managed to slide into the European Clutch for a quick, almost surprise, three count to retain the British Championship.

Zack Sabre Jr and SANADA
Sabre applies the European Clutch

With a slightly different feel to every other match of the weekend (to quote Sabre, ‘bloody tekkers, mate’) Zack Sabre Jr once again showed why he is one of the best British wrestling exports in years while SANADA continued to establish his presence away from his tag team with EVIL.

IWGP United States Championship
Jon Moxley (c) vs Juice Robinson

Juice Robinson and Jon Moxley
DEATH RIDER!

After winning back the title he never lost the night before Jon Moxley didn’t have much time to recover from the Texas Deathmatch before his belt was on the line again against a man with whom he has a relationship and rivalry dating back to their days in NXT under rather different guises.

With Juice again not waiting for his opponent to make it to the ring the match began fast and intense on the arena floor but once things settled down it was Robinson’s back, injured the previous night by GoD, that became his downfall.

Though he had a few good chances, including hitting his Left Hand Of God through a steel chair to Moxley, it was the champ who gained and maintained the advantage until he hit a double arm DDT and rolled it straight into a Death Rider to retain the belt in a spirited if largely unspectacular contest that rounded off the story between the two from last summer.

Jon Moxley and Minoru Suzuki
Suzuki lays out Moxley

What was spectacular was what came next as the music of Minoru Suzuki blasted from the PA and ‘The King’ made his way to the ring ready to fight and faced off with Moxley before hitting him with his Gotch-style Piledriver by way of a challenge that has already set the wrestling world alight with anticipation.

NEVER Openweight Championship
KENTA (c) vs Hirooki Goto

With both Champion and challenger intense and focussed, and with a rivalry that’s been simmering for a number of months, it wasn’t long before the two were unleashing the heavy artillery on one another, but it was a DDT on the entrance ramp that confirmed an advantage for KENTA.

KENTA and Hirooki Goto
Goto squares up to KENTA

Channeling the ‘strong style’ ethic of classic NJPW the pair got into a forearm battle where the advantage went the way of the challenger with what looked like a knockout shot before he hit his Ushi Goroshi.

KENTA rallied and a palm strike battle ensued and both men looked like they could win at several points but, in something of a surprise, it was Goto who hit his GTR to claim the title once again leading to a happy ending for the crowd but leaving the question hanging, ‘what does this mean for KENTA?’

Jay White w/ Gedo vs Kota Ibushi

Kota Ibushi and Jay White
Lariat from Ibushi to White

After both men lost their respective title matches the previous night this special one on one encounter was a chance to save face somewhat and set themselves up for the year to come.

Despite getting the early advantage Ibushi was waylaid somewhat by taking a nasty bump into the guard rail.

As the match progressed Ibushi’s more intense side came out once more and it seemed that no matter what White did he couldn’t keep his opponent down including a Kiwi Crusher, a uranage from the top rope and a sleeper suplex that landed Ibushi on the top of his head.

Gedo and Jay White
Gedo and Jay White celebrate

Ibushi rallied hitting the V-Trigger knee strike and most of his other big ticket attacks but with White pulling the referee into the line of Fire and Gedo once again becoming involved it was the New Zealander who picked up the tainted win with his Blade Runner.

While it’s hard not to feel Ibushi has been left out in the cold somewhat by this loss it has given him a challenge to recover and restate his position going forward while maintaining White’s credentials as one of New Japan’s most hated despite the loss of the Intercontinental belt the previous night, and I suspect Ibushi will want revenge somewhere down the line.

Chris Jericho vs Hiroshi Tanahashi

Chris Jericho and Hiroshi Tanahashi
Jericho drives Tanahashi through a table

Despite there being nothing on the line (though Jericho had suggested should Tanahashi win he may be in line for an AEW title shot) a match between two current legends of the calibre of these two men always has the potential to be something special.

Added to that it was clear that The Ace of New Japan is in the best shape he has been in some time while Jericho is in the midst of a career renaissance as AEW Champion and following a great run of feature matches in NJPW.

With that in mind the pair went all in to put on a show with Jericho starting off in brawler mode, including putting Tana through a table with a DDT, but showing he can still do the athletic stuff as the match went on delivering his springboard dropkick with precision (though his frog splash attempt left a little to be desired).

Chris Jericho and Hiroshi Tanahashi
Jericho applies the Liontamer

Tanahashi meanwhile gave his all, including hitting a High Fly Flow to the floor, but it was another attempt at the diving move in the ring that Jericho countered with his Codebreaker and then another attempt at it into the Walls of Jericho Boston crab and then into the full Liontamer that lead The Ace to tap out in submission.

While that put paid to the talk of an AEW Championship match for the New Japan mainstay it remains an interesting conclusion that left me wondering where either man goes next as Jericho has made it clear he hopes this wasn’t his last visit to Japan and it leaves The Ace somewhat apart from everything else going on in the main event scene.

IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championship
Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Tetsuya Naito (c)

Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito
Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito

With Naito making his way to the ring first it became clear that the rebellious Intercontinental Champion was the crowd favourite and that the story of his quest to overcome not just Kazuchika Okada but an apparent curse on his Wrestle Kingdom outings had captured the fans’ imagination so, despite the preeminence of the Heavyweight champions reign, this was Naito’s match to win or lose.

Okada started the match off with he faster pace to claim the advantage but as Naito began to attack the Rainmaker’s neck and slow the pace he was able to get on top, even countering an early attempt at the rip-chord lariat with a series of heavy elbow blows to the side of Okada’s neck.

Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito
RAINMAKER!

The Heavyweight champion took control again after targeting Naito’s injured knee, even going as far as to deliver a knee beaker into the commentators table on the floor leading to an amazingly close count against Naito.

A tornado DDT and a dangerously high angled Gloria gave the Intercontinental champion the advantage once more with a top rope poison-rana and Destino leading to a two count.

As the match reached the half hour mark, an impressive feat given both men’s lengthy contests the previous day, it looked as if Okada had it in the bag, countering Destino into a tombstone and then the Rainmaker but Naito survived against the odds.

Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito
DESTINO!

Another Rainmaker was countered into another Destino but Naito’s injured knee prevented the pinfall and then Okada survived a Stardust Press as the match reached a new level of excitement.

With the Heavyweight champion clearly weakened the Intercontinental champion was able to deliver Valentia, moving directly into another Destino which was, at last, enough to finish Okada so, with the crowd as loud as they got, Naito overcame everything to claim his place in history as the first dual IWGP champion.

At 35 minutes this was another marathon in the vein of which we have become accustomed from Okada but, as with the first night of the show, it was captivating, culminating in what, to a degree, felt like a surprise.

After the match Naito made the traditional final address culminating in the roll call of Los Ingobernables De Japon but, in a true shock moment for the usually more traditional New Japan, he was interrupted by KENTA (answering my question from earlier).

KENTA
KENTA poses with the belts

The Bullet Club recruit delivered a G2S to the newly crowned champion and sat on his chest holding the belts aloft, marking himself as not just a new challenger but the company’s most hated man closing the big shows of the weekend on a genuine surprise while still not letting Naito quite get his moment in the Tokyo Dome spotlight.

Overall this made the second night another great show, albeit with a slightly different feel to the first but both came together to make for one huge show that rounded off a strong 2019 and set the wheels in motion for what could be an even better 2020 for New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

Of course the weekend didn’t entirely end there within New Years Dash the following day.

Jushin Thunder Liger retirement ceremony
Jushin Thunder Liger retirement ceremony

While more sedate than past years, given the events of the second day of Wrestle Kingdom, there were still a few notable occurrences beginning with the emotional retirement ceremony for Jushin Thunder Liger.

Later in the show Jon Moxley gave Suzuki a taste of his own medicine attacking after a Suzuki-Gun tag team match and cementing their feud while Will Ospreay and Zack Sabre Jr faced off with a challenge clearly made for the British Championship.

The team of Shingo Takagi & EVIL faced off with Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii in a brutal battle setting up a challenge from Takagi for Goto’s newly won NEVER Championship while Tanahashi and Ibushi seemed to form a new alliance and challenge new tag champs FINJUICE.

Tetsuya Naito and KENTA
Tetsuya Naito and KENTA

The show reached its climax as Naito & SANADA faced KENTA & Jay White with the Bullet Club team losing the match but attacking their opponents afterwards to confirm two more upcoming feuds including KENTA’s challenge for the dual championships, making the New Beginning shows coming up in early February must watches whatever style of wrestling you might be looking for.

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