1/4 NJPW “Wrestle Kingdom” Tokyo Dome Show – CALDWELL’S Complete Live Report

New Japan’s annual “Wrestle Kingdom” Tokyo Dome Show is now in the books with an epic start to 2016 on Monday from Tokyo, Japan. Read full coverage of the event…

New Japan “Wrestle Kingdom 10” PPV Report
January 4, 2016
Tokyo, Japan at the Tokyo Dome
Aired on New Japan World
Report by James Caldwell, PWTorch assistant editor

A — Pre-Show Battle Royal

Jushin Liger and legendary wrestler Yoshiaki Fujiwara opened the match setting up Royal Rumble-style intros. Tiger Mask was out third, followed by Cheeseburger representing ROH. Cheeseburger was roughed up and make sport of, then another legend Hiro Saito was out fifth sporting an old-school “Calgary” t-shirt. YOSHI-HASHI was out next taking his time making his way to the ring.

Out next was Mascara Dorada representing CMLL. High-flying ensued while early participants hung out in the ring. Captain New Japan came out next in an Oakland Raiders black & white outfit. Suddenly, Fujiwara submitted Captain and everyone jumped on top of Fujiwara to pin him. That was quick.

Nakanishi was out next, followed by Yuji Nagata looking to deliver some blue justice to this battle royal. Yuji didn’t know who to go after first, so Mascara picked a fight with him. Suddenly, Saito flew on top of Tiger Mask with a top-rope senton to pin him. Then, everyone ganged up on Saito to pin him.

Satoshi Kojima, who main-evented Tokyo Dome five years ago, was out next as Nakanishi was dumped out of the ring. Kojima took out his anger on everyone, then Tenzan was introduced next to join his tag partner in the match. Meanwhile, Cheeseburger was still in there representing ROH. Uh-oh, Tenzan accidentally clotheslined Kojima, who took exception. Yuji just sat back and watched as Tenzan and Kojima came to blows. They eventually agreed to beat up YOSHI-HASHI, making everything right.

Time to get funky with Ryusuke Taguchi out next at the #13 spot. everyone took exception to Taguchi’s presence, and even Cheesburger got in some shots. Enough of that, as wrestling legend Shiro Koshinaka was out next. Butt splashes followed, making Taguchi jealous. Suddenly, Bullet Club’s theme produced shrieks in the crowd and then … Haku/Meng!

Haku hit the ring going after Nagata as the announcers talked about him being the father of Bullet Club member Tama Tonga. Time for another legend at #16. It was The Great Kabuki wielding nunchucks. It took Kabuki a little while to make his way to the ring, but he got in there. It was time for another entry a few seconds after Kabuki completed his entrance. Cue up Sakuraba for some strikes and punishment.

Sakuraba and Kabuki came face-to-face for a crowd-pleasing showdown. Kabuki caught him with the green mist and was DQ’ed by referee Tiger Hattori. Suddenly, YOSHI came off the top with a Swanton Bomb to Cheeseburger to cut ROH’s representative, who lasted a long time. Next out was Jado, who took a while to enter the ring after a long entrance with pop singer Momoka Ariyasu. Apparently Jado was the last one in the match at #18.

The match was down to Jado, Taguchi, and Koshinaka. Jado tossed Koshinaka over the top rope, then Taguchi hit Jado with the Funky Weapon. But, Jado low-bridged a charging Taguchi and eliminated him over the top rope to win the battle royal by doing virtually nothing. Afterward, Jado celebrated in the ring with Momoka Ariyasu, who cut an excited promo before posing with Jado.

WINNER: Jado at 31:45. That was a fun pre-show battle royal combining a Legends Battle Royal, Royal Rumble, and gauntlet match.

ORDER OF ENTRY

(1) Jushin Liger
(2) Yoshiaki Fujiwara
(3) Tiger Mask
(4) Cheeseburger
(5) Hiro Saito
(6) YOSHI-HASHI
(7) Mascara Dorada
(8) Captain New Japan
(9) Nakanishi
(10) Yuji Nagata
(11) Satoshi Kojima
(12) Tenzan
(13) Ryusuke Taguchi
(14) Shiro Koshinaka
(15) King Haku/Meng
(16) The Great Kabuki
(17) Sakuraba
(18) Jado

The pre-show continued with some general announcements to the live crowd over the public address system. Then, some ads and product placement featuring New Japan stars, including Tanahashi. Apparently there is a new anime movie about the birth of Japan coming out this year. If this was NOAH, there would probably be a Table of Nations tie-in somewhere. Anyways, a long skit involving an actor, small child, and mascots ensued on the stage. Then, a dance number to conclude. That was something else.

Live Show

The broadcast started with an epic rundown of the nine-match card, highlighting the build-up and big personalities. It’s New Japan’s 44th Anniversary and it starts inside the Tokyo Dome.

1 — IWGP Jr. Hvt. tag champions REDRAGON (KYLE O’REILLY & BOBBY FISH) vs. YOUNG BUCKS (MATT & NICK JACKSON w/Cody Hall) vs. RPG VICE (ROCKY ROMERO & TRENT BARETTA) vs. 2015 Super Jrs. Tournament winners MATT SYDAL & RICOCHET — four-way IWGP Jr. Hvt. Tag Title match

The Young Bucks were out first doing crotch chops and superkicks for the entranceramp camera. RPG Vice of Rocky Romero and Trent Baretta were out next with a cool ring entrance. That is a long entrance ramp to the ring. Out next were Matt Sydal & Ricochet getting their title shot for winning the Jr. Hvt. Tag Tournament. Out last were the IWGP Jr. Hvt. tag champions ReDragon representing Ring of Honor.

Young Bucks jumped ReDragon before the bell sounded, then demanded the opening bell so they could make their attack legal going forward. The action kept going with big moves and double-team combos building to a big line dance eight-man suplex that wowed the crowd. Rocky Romero then took over with lariats to anyone he could find in the four corners of the ring. Romero was then taken out and the Young Bucks capitalized with More Bang For Your Buck on Romero for the pin to win back the Jr. Hvt. Tag Titles.

WINNERS: Young Bucks at 16:44 to capture the IWGP Jr. Hvt. Tag Titles. A very good opener with all four teams getting time to shine before the Bucks eventually re-captured the belts. (***1/4)

Next up was the first-ever NEVER Openweight six-man tag title match. Bullet Club made their slow entrance, then Toru Yano was out next representing CHAOS. He waved out the Briscoes to join him against Bullet Club. The fight was on before the bell sounded.

2 — BULLET CLUB (YUJIRO TAKAHASHI & TAMA TONGA & BAD LUCK FALE) vs. TORU YANO & THE BRISCOES (JAY & MARK BRISCOE) — NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Title match

The Briscoes shined early on, drawing applause from the crowd. Yano then tagged in and did his troublemaking schoolboy tactics annoying Bullet Club. But, they cut him off and isolated Yano in their corner. The Briscoes eventually got back in the match and dropped Tonga with the Doomsday Device. Jay scored the pin to become the first NEVER six-man tag champions. A curtain call ensued as Yano also tried to sell his CHAOS DVD.

WINNERS: Yano & Briscoes at 11:40 to capture the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Titles. An interesting mix of personalities in this match. The Briscoes being on the winning side points to them returning to Japan to defend the new Six-man Tag Titles. (**1/2)

Next up was the ROH World Title match. Out first was challenger Michael Elgin returning to a favorable crowd in Japan following his strong G1 Climax run over the summer. After a pause, Truth Martini produced the ROH World champion Jay Lethal, who sped up his Heel Champion Walk to the ring to conquer the long entrance ramp.

3 — ROH World champion JAY LETHAL (w/Truth Martini) vs. MICHAEL ELGIN — ROH World Title match

Elgin delivered the crowd-pleasing delayed vertical suplex to the champion early on. Elgin followed with a one-hand gorilla press slam, drawing more applause and cheers. On the ring apron, Elgin dropkicked Martini’s Book of Truth, allowing Lethal to capitalize with a kick to the head and two suicide dives.

Back in the ring, Lethal slowed the pace trying to wear down Elgin, who responded with a deadlift German Suplex for a two count. Big Mike landed clubbing forearms, but Lethal responded with the Lethal Combination. Lethal then went to the top rope and nailed an elbow drop for a two count. Lethal missed with the Lethal Injection, allowing Elgin to nail two German suplexes into a big lariat.

Elgin followed with a super deadlift suplex out of the corner for a two count. Big Mike hit a Bucklebomb, then knocked Martini out of the ring. He tried an Elginbomb, but Lethal used the Book of Truth to Elgin’s head to block the move. Lethal followed with the Lethal Injection in the middle of the ring. Lethal pinned Elgin for the win.

WINNER: Lethal at 12:02 to retain the ROH World Title. They had to protect Elgin in Japan, so they went for the “dirty American tactics” of managerial interference to preserve Lethal’s title reign. Overall, a fine display from Lethal and Elgin for their place on the card. (**3/4)

Next up was the IWGP Jr. Hvt. Title match. For “Time Splitter” KUSHIDA’s ring entrance, a man dressed like Christopher Lloyd’s Dr. Brown character appeared in the ring using a joystick to bring “Marty McFly” KUSHIDA back to the future. KUSHIDA and “Dr. Brown” shook hands in the ring before Kenny Omega made his ring entrance. Before the match started, the Young Bucks showed up to join Omega in the ring. Omega and the Bucks eventually triple superkicked Dr. Brown and his joystick out of the ring.

4 — IWGP Jr. Hvt. champion KENNY OMEGA vs. KUSHIDA — IWGP Jr. Hvt. Title match

KUSHIDA had to fend off the Bucks and Omega early on. And then a cleaning product from Omega. KUSHIDA shook it off and dropkicked Omega through the ropes. But, the Young Bucks had trash cans available to smash KUSHIDA with, continuing the theme of Omega being “The Cleaner.” The ref allowed the activity, giving KUSHIDA  chance to win the belt instead of DQ’ing the champ. Omega then nailed a huge flip dive onto the outside, wiping out KUSHIDA.

Back in the ring, Omega went to work on KUSHIDA, drawing more heat for disrespectful heel tactics. KUSHIDA fought back and teased the Hoverboard Lock, but Omega got a rope break. KUSHIDA then knocked Omega to the floor and nailed a big splash on the outside. Back in the ring, KUSHIDA wanted the Hoverboard Lock again, but Omega escaped and nailed a back drop suplex.

KUSHIDA went back to the hoverboard moments later. Omega used his feet trying to kick free while the Young Bucks tried to get involved from the outside. But, Dr. Brown woke up and smashed the Bucks with trashcans to neutralize them. Back in the ring, Omega kicked KUSHIDA in the head and delivered a one-hand sit-out powerbomb using his one good arm after all of the Hoverboard work, but KUSHIDA kicked out just before three.

Omega then nailed a running knee into the head before hoisting KUSHIDA into the air for his electric chair finisher, causing the crowd to freak out, but KUSHIDA rolled through into a cradle pin for the three count to win the Jr. Hvt. Title.

WINNER: KUSHIDA at 12:52 to capture the IWGP Jr. Hvt. Title. That really turned the corner from very good to great in the final five minutes. The match built some silliness in the beginning to a nice middle and very strong ending. Now the show is off and running. (***1/2)

Next up, HONMA Time. The World Tag League winners of Honma and Togi Makabe were out first holding their victory trophies. Bullet Club’s resident tag champions Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows, along with Amber Gallows, were out next in all white. On the way to the ring, Anderson bragged about eight straight Tokyo Dome shows.

5 — IWGP World tag champions KARL ANDERSON & DOC GALLOWS (w/Amber Gallows) vs. World Tag League winners HONMA & TOGI MAKABE — IWGP World Tag Title match

It was obvious that Karl Anderson has dropped a lot of weight, looking in the best shape of his career. Honma still found a target for a running Kokeshi in the opening minute, but Anderson moved out of the way just in time. So, Gallows tagged in and lit up Honma. Anderson tagged back in, mocked Honma’s mannerisms to boos, and airballed a running butt splash. Makabe then tagged in to cheers and teed off on Anderson.

Chaos broke out in and out of the ring, including Gallows taking Makabe’s chain and using it against him on the floor. Back in the ring, Bullet Club isolated Makabe in the ring, taking advantage of the referee’s five counts. Meanwhile, Honma was bleeding at the back of his head from the chaos. Makabe eventually fought back to tag in Honma, who knocked down Anderson and nailed a running Kokeshi.

The match broke down again with both teams in the ring, then Anderson dropped Honma with a running slam for a two count. The tag champs wanted their Magic Killer finisher, but Makabe broke it up just in time. Honma then dropped Anderson with a running Kokeshi. He wanted a top-rope Kokeshi to end it, but Doc cut him off with an uppercut. Anderson then slammed Honma for a close two count. Anderson sold frustration, then stalked Honma for the Gun Stun cutter, but Honma blocked and lunged toward him with a Kokeshi to put both men on the mat.

Gallows and Makabe tagged into the match as chaos continued to rule without a consistent application of rules, making this essentially Texas Tornado rules. Gallows made the mistake of angering Makabe, who smashed him with a clothesline. Makabe then launched Honma into Anderson for the Kokeshi. The challengers then wanted a combination Kokeshi on Anderson and they connected. Honma followed with a top-rope Kokeshi to Gallows. Makabe then hit the King Kong knee drop and pinned Gallows for the win as Honma celebrated in the background. What a moment.

WINNERS: Makabe & Honma at 12:52 to capture the IWGP World Tag Titles. That was a strong tag match. Of course, because Honma was in it, but also for a strong level of excitement and action. Plus, Anderson wrestled a much faster pace after slimming down 15-25 pounds. This was good. (***)

After the Tag Title match, New Japan announced the big shows on the 2016 Schedule of Events running through G1 Climax 26 in July-August.

Back in the arena, Naito was introduced to the ring as the crowd anticipated what kind of spooky ring entrance Naito would have in mind for the Tokyo Dome. First out was EVIL doing a light show. Then, masked luchador Bushi as the grim reaper. Finally, Naito emerged dressed in a white suit with an evil mask. Halfway down the ramp, Naito removed the mask and frowned toward the crowd as he kept walking down to the ring. After the elaborate ring entrance was complete, Hirooki Goto was introduced as his opponent for the big grudge match.

6 — NAITO vs. HIROOKI GOTO

Before the bell sounded, Evil and Bushi sneak-attacked Goto, giving Naito an early start on offense. Goto then found himself on the outside, where Evil smashed him in the face with a chair. Naito then set up a New Japan table at ringside and slammed Goto half-way through it with a neckbreaker from the ring apron. Naito slid back into the ring and did his casual pose as Goto recovered on the floor. Bushi “helped” Goto back into the ring and Naito went to work.

Goto suddenly surprised Naito with a big lariat-o, getting some breathing room. Goto followed with a big slam across his knee, then nailed another lariat. Goto wanted to follow with Shouten, but Evil ran into the ring to attack him. Goto fought off Evil, then Bushi, and nearly got pinned by Naito. But, Goto came right back with Shouten for the pin and the win.

WINNER: Goto at 12:20. Classic Tokyo Dome story of overcoming all of the obstacles to finally conquer. In this case, it was Naito’s antics and outside interference that Goto had to fight through. Fine for its place leading to the Big Three matches of the show. (**1/4)

Next out was Shibata to challenge for the NEVER Openweight Title. Tomohiro Ishii was out next marching to the ring ready for a fight. This should be very physical.

7 — NEVER Openweight champion TOMOHIRO ISHII vs. SHIBATA — NEVER Openweight Title match

The physicality kicked off early when both men willingly sat down in the middle of the ring to receive kicks and body blows to the back. Goodness, Shibata laid into Ishii with a strike to the back. Ishii came back with chops to the chest that Shibata welcomed to test his toughness. Shibata thought he answered Ishii, but Ishii surprised Shibata by snapping off a rolling suplex.

A long sequence unfolded with Shibata driving Ishii to the corner and landing forearms, but Ishii started no-selling, so he drove Shibata into the corner. Then, Shibata no-sold, came out of the corner, and smashed Ishii with a hard forearm into his flying basement dropkick, but Ishii popped out of the corner no-selling. Except, Ishii ran into a flying dropkick that put both men on the mat, drawing a round of applause.

Ishii and Shibata came back to their feet rocking each other, no-selling, and unleashing a flurry of offense at a rapid-fire pace. Eventually both guys just stumbled around the ring and collapsed to the mat from exhaustion. More applause for both warriors, then both men came back to their feet trading blows. Ishii eventually drove Shibata to the corner looking for a top-rope move, but Shibata trapped Ishii in an armbar submission. Ishii blocked the full application, then slammed Shibata hard to the mat. What a match unfolding here.

Ishii tried to charge Shibata with a big boot, but Shibata caught his leg and smashed him with a lariat-o. Shibata followed with a Death Valley Driver for a two count. He flowed into a rear-naked choke, drawing concern in the crowd for Ishii, who reached the ropes for a break. Shibata tried to follow with the Penalty Kick, but Ishii blocked and flung Shibata across the ring. Both men sold on the mat.

Another huge sequence unfolded with big power offense, kick-outs at one, and the New Japan announcers just marveling at the unreal physicality. Shibata nailed a big kick to the chest, then set up Ishii for the PK, and he nailed it. Shibata fell on top of Ishii and stayed on him to get a three count for the win.

WINNER: Shibata in 17:00. That was unreal. If you like non-stop, physical, hard-hitting pro wrestling, this is for you. A nice win for Shibata to springboard him to potential top status in 2016 after a progressive ascension as a singles wrestler over the past two years. Will he break through into the Big Three Club with Tanahashi, Okada, and Nakamura, though? (****1/4)

Next was an epic video package on the “dream match” of Shinsuke Nakamura vs. A.J. Styles for the IWGP Intercontinental Title.

After the video aired, A.J. Styles’s ring entrance took place bringing out Styles wearing a black & white Bullet Club mask to cover his face. The crowd showed respect for Styles, who made a slow walk down the long entrance ramp stopping to point into the crowd. And then, Shinsuke Nakamura. Nakamura emerged on-stage dressed in a shiny red vest with the IWGP IC Title belt around his waist. Nakamura made his dramatic ring entrance, then handed over the title belt for Styles to touch before the bell sounded.

8 — IWGP IC champion SHINSUKE NAKAMURA vs. A.J. STYLES — IWGP Intercontinental Title match

Champ and Challenger went through a strong, extended feeling-out process to begin the match as the crowd called out each wrestlers’s name at various points. Styles eventually shouted “Shut up” toward the crowd before going for a submission, but Nakamura broke free in the ropes. Very methodical pace thus far to follow up on the non-stop fight in the previous match.

The match moved to the floor, where Nakamura charged Styles and rammed him into the ringside barricade. Back in the ring, Nakamura kicked Styles in the gut, then in the head. He followed with vibration foot stomps in the corner, then a diving knee to the head. Nakamura looked for a corner move, but Styles blocked and immediately flew toward Nakamura with a springboard flying forearm smash.

Reset, then Styles surprised Nakamura with his Pele Kick, but Nakamura collected himself and ultra-surprised Styles with a Shining Wizard resulting in a close two count. Stlyes tried a crucifix pin, got a two count, and Styles absolutely smashed Nakamura with a kick to the face. Nakamura sold losing feeling, causing the crowd to panic, so Styles came off the top with a big 450 splash, but Nakamura kicked out right before three.

After a reset, Nakamura rolled over Styles with an armbar submission, but Styles powered to his stomach, then hoisted Nakamura into the air for the Styles Clash right in the middle of the ring. Styles covered, but Nakamura kicked out with a split second to spare. Styles then scooped up Nakamura to nail Bloody Sunday as the crowd freaked out with Nakamura in deep trouble. Styles wanted the Clash again, but he decided he needed something extra on it. Styles went for a Super Styles Clash from the top turnbuckle, but Nakamura slipped out, kicked Styles in the head, and delivered a super driver for a close two count.

Nakamura gathered himself in the corner, stalked Styles, and nailed the Boma Ye to the back of Styles’s head. Styles sold being KO’ed as Nakamura recovered and nailed a second Boma Ye, this time right to the face. Nakamura stacked up Styles and pinned him for the win as the crowd exploded.

Post-match, both men sold exhaustion recovering within inches of each other on the mat. Nakamura then rolled over onto his knees, Styles did the same, and Nakamura held out his fist. Styles contemplated, then met Nakamura’s fist for a big moment, complete with a tight zoom-in. “Tokyo Dome!” the announcers exclaimed. After Styles was dragged out of the ring, Nakamura celebrated in the ring before leaving the Tokyo Dome with the title belt over his shoulder.

WINNER: Nakamura at 24:24. Wow. What an epic Tokyo Dome match. Nice, steady build to an epic finishing sequence and conclusion with both men leaving everything in the ring, then a show of respect after the match. That was definitely Tokyo Dome Magic before the main event. As for Bullet Club, there is no more title gold except for the Young Bucks capturing the IWGP Jr. Hvt. Tag Titles. Interesting to see what the future of the group is in New Japan. (****1/2)

As the crowd buzzed in anticipation of the main event, New Japan went to an epic video package on the history between Tanahashi and IWGP World Hvt. champion Kazuchika Okada leading into the latest Tokyo Dome main event battle. This time, it’s Okada as defending champion and Tanahashi as G1 Climax winner, flipping the roles from last year.

Back in the Tokyo Dome, Tanahashi was introduced first with his IWGP Title briefcase to cash in for this main event match. Big-time feel to this, then the money dropped to produce Kazuchika Okada. Suddenly, everything went blank. The music stopped and Okada appeared on the stage. And his music started up again. Okada made his epic ring entrance with Gedo following behind. Okada Bills continued to drop from the ceiling as both men caught their breath in the ring and waited for the opening bell.

9 — IWGP World Hvt. champion KAZUCHIKA OKADA (w/Gedo) vs. G1 Climax winner TANAHASHI — IWGP World Hvt. Title match

Both men remained in their corners as the crowd buzzed and roared once the bell sounded. Once they met in the middle of the ring, Okada showed more confidence as the defending champion in this encounter. Tanahashi showed a little frustration wanting to get into the match, while Okada played it cool. They eventually came face-to-face in the middle of the ring. Tanahashi slapped him, so Okada fired off forearms into a running boot.

Tanahashi came back with a chopblock to the right knee, capitalizing on Okada turning his back to him in the heat in the battle. Tanahashi began stomping away on the knee as Okada sold with a limp. Tanahashi then tried a corner attack, but Okada flew at him with a desperation dropkick that sent Tanahashi to the outside. Meanwhile, Okada used the breather to check on his knee and try to gather himself.

Okada decided to follow up on the outside, where he delivered a running boot into a flying splash over the guardrail into the production area in front of the seats. Okada got up selling the knee again, then he grabbed Tanahashi and dragged him back into the ring before the 20-count. Okada lifted Tanahashi onto the top turnbuckle looking for his textbood dropkick, but Tanahashi blocked, then missed a big splash when Okada moved. They know each other so well.

Okada followed with a straight-jacket mat hold trying to squeeze the life out of Tanahashi. Tanahashi fought out, then avoided a running splash from Okada. Both men were slow to get back to their feet, then Tanahashi knocked Okada out of the ring. Tanahashi wanted a big splash on the outside, and he connected with High Fly Flow to the floor, knocking Okada into the barricade. Both men sold on the floor, with Tanahashi also feeling the effects. Tanahashi made it back into the ring in plenty of time, then Okada nearly slipped on the ring apron and got counted out, but made it back at 19.

Tanahashi capitalized with High Fly Flow to Okada’s injured knee, then he went for a knee-stretch submission, but Okada reached the bottom rope for a break. Both men sold on the mat again, so Gedo started a rally clap for Okada. The two warriors got up and met in the middle of the ring for a big exchange of forearms and strikes. Suddenly, Okada sprung on Tanahashi with a flying dropkick to get some room to operate.

Okada bodyslammed Tanahashi, then climbed to the top turnbuckle looking for the diving elbow drop, and he connected. Okada followed with the Rainmaker Pose over Tanahashi, complete with the zoom-out. Okada tried the Rainmaker lariat, but Tanahashi ducked and rolled up Okada for a close two count. Tanahashi then dropkicked Okada in the injured knee and followed with a Dragonscrew leg whip.

Big-time atmosphere as both men recovered to their feet. Tanahashi went for a Texas Cloverleaf putting all of the pressure on Okada’s knee, but Okada managed to grab the bottom rope for a break. Tanahashi followed with a suplex into Slingblade. He then ran to the top turnbuckle and went for High Fly Flow, but Okada rolled out of the way at the very last second to avoid.

Okada came to his feet looking for a Tombstone, but Tanahashi blocked and nailed a spinning facebuster, but Okada rolled to his feet and hit the Tombstone. Rainmaker Pose again through the knee pain. He picked up Tanahashi and spun him around for the Rainmaker, but Tanahashi kicked out before three. Okada simply could not believe it as the crowd buzzed.

Okada then climbed to the top turnbuckle and nailed Tanahashi’s own High Fly Flow finisher, but Tanahashi kicked out. Another Rainmaker attempt, but Tanahashi ducked, and Tanahashi hit the Rainmaker on Okada. Both men sold on the mat, unable to move. New Japan went to a wide shot of the Tokyo Dome as both men slowly came to their feet selling the effects of a match now past the 30-minute mark.

With both men now at their feet, Okada lifted up Tanahashi for a Tombstone, but Tanahashi fought, slipped out the back door, and caught Okada with Slingblade. Tanahashi then dropped Okada with a German Suplex with bridge for a close two count. Tanahashi paused, then climbed to the top turnbuckle and nailed High Fly Flow to Okada’s back. Once more to the top. Another High Fly Flow, and he connected. Tanahashi covered, but Okada kicked out! The crowd went nuts. Unbelievable.

Tanahashi caught his breath, then went to the corner again. He wanted High Fly on a standing Okada, but Okada intercepted with a flying dropkick. Tanahashi sold intense stomach pain as Okada recovered on the mat. Okada then picked up Tanahashi for a suplex, but Tanahashi blocked. Tanahashi held on for dear life, then elbowed Okada and slapped him across the face. Tanahashi bounced off the ropes and ran right into a textbook dropkick. Okada then picked up Tanahashi, spun him around, and missed with the Rainmaker. Okada trapped him for a German, but Tanahashi blocked and slapped him again. Both men remained frozen in the middle of the ring, then Okada hit one Rainmaker into a second one. Okada picked up Tanahashi for a third one and he nailed it on a virtually lifeless Tanahashi. Okada covered and scored the three count on Tanahashi to finally win.

WINNER: Okada at 36:10 to retain the IWGP World Title (match time slightly off due to some buffering). This was just unbelievably epic. Just when you think there’s no way they can top themselves and this match has been done so many times before, they found a way to top themselves with an epic final 10 minutes pulling out everything they had to offer. You knew it was Okada’s time to win, but there was still that little bit of doubt that New Japan would put the belt back on Tanahashi. Alas, it’s Okada’s time and he went the distance in an epic showdown with Tanahashi. (*****)

After the match, both men sold on the mat as the crowd roared approval. Tanahashi was eventually dragged out of the ring, then royal music played to coronate Okada as still IWGP World champion. Gedo took the mic and built up Okada as the best wrestler in the world. Okada then took the mic and had three things to say. Basically, Okada is a baller. But, how would he close out Tokyo Dome a la Tanahashi’s air guitar routine? Just drop the money and let the music play. Okada posed in all four corners while selling the effects of the knee work from Tanahashi during the match. Okada then marched down the entrance ramp back to the top of the stage with Gedo following close behind. Okada made it to the top of the stage, then grabbed a microphone to make a proclamation before the money dropped again. Rainmaker Pose as the giant videoboard filled up with Okada’s signature yellow colors. Okada and Gedo disappeared down the ramp and Okada’s music played out to conclude this year’s Tokyo Dome Show. Amazing.

That was the perfect example of how to build a card, especially leading to the final three matches with Shibata vs. Ishii hitting four-stars-plus, Nakamura vs. Styles going a little higher, and Tanahashi vs. Okada closing in epic fashion. That’s how pro wrestling is done on a big stage.

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