NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING “WRESTLE KINGDOM 13” REPORT
JANUARY 4, 2019
TOKYO, JAPAN AT THE TOKYO DOME
AIRED LIVE ON NEW JAPAN WORLD AND FITE TV
Report by Dan Kuester (early matches) and Rich Fann (last four matches)
Announcers – Don Callis, Chris Charlton and Kevin Kelly
NEVER Openweight Six-Man Championship No. 1 Contender’s Match (Pre-show) — Togi Makabe, Toru Yano & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Yuji Nagata, Jeff Cobb & David Finlay vs. Hirooki Goto, Beretta & Chuckie T vs. Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. vs. Hangman Page, Yujiro Takahashi & Marty Scurll:
I was actually fairly excited about this match replacing the New Japan Rumble as there was a considerable amount of talent involved for a pre-show match.
Well, it took me 25 minutes to get my password reset for NJPW World and even after I was able to get that established, it took me another 15 minutes to get logged in as the server for NJPW World appeared to be overloaded. Once, I gave up trying to watch the Tokyo Dome feed and signed into an old show and then tried to get back in for the Tokyo Dome feed, I was able to actually see the feed. I did see Taguchi walking off (in victory?) holding up a chair and heard Kevin Kelly tell the fans they would be back in a while as I got the feed, I seem to be unable to rewind the live feed and I am not going to tempt fate as it was VERY frustrating trying to get this feed to work and I do not want to tempt fate with such an amazing card to come. (I was able to confirm on Twitter that Yano scored the winning pin and that he, Makabe and Taguchi were the winning team). Jason Powell has a nice report on this match over at ProWrestling.net with all the details but Yano pinned Smith after a low blow to finish things off.
As we are about 15 minutes from the main show, they are showing the awesome montage of the big matches and stories from 2018 New Japan. I’ve seen this a few times and I will still take it over a WWE canned pre-show and it’s not even close.
A friend of mine mentioned it also took him 25 minutes to log into NJPW World. While I’m pleased the company is doing so well, this is really unacceptable to not have the capability for subscribers to log in. I was so desperate I tried to start a new account with a different email account and that was crashing. I am afraid they are leaving some money on the table this morning.
Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton (who I am thrilled is working this show as he adds a tremendous amount of knowledge and perspective) are back on the air at 5 until 2 AM Central. They announced major cards in Dallas and London (August 31) for 2019 and I believe that New Year’s Dash will be in the Dome next year.
NEVER Openweight Championship — Kota Ibushi (c) vs. Will Ospreay: I went into this match thinking it might be the best opener in the history of wrestling. (I also went into this evening thinking there has never been a more stacked lineup for a wrestling card going into an event on paper also, so I’m pretty fired up for this show)
This match opened with some rapid-fire offense and competing kicks. Ibushi missed a high risk move early and Ospreay was able to land a space flying tiger drop before taking over with some more deliberate offense. The announcers are doing a good job of letting the audience know this is Ospreay’s first of many matches in the heavyweight division and that he clearly belongs there.
At about the four-minute mark Ibushi took over with some high flying offense including a missile dropkick. This offense is not easy to keep up with, Ospreay landed a flying kick after Ibushi whipped him into the ropes, this is a fascinating match where there is a lot of high flying moves but also efforts at more traditional heavyweight moves where you are wearing your opponent out.
They exchanged forearms just after the eight-minute mark and Ibushi got the best of the exchange. The announcers have sold that Ibushi is controlling most of the offense although it seems fairly close to 50-50 to me. They kept reversing piledriver and Spanish fly attempts in a pretty amazing series of spots before Ospreay scored with the Spanish Fly. He follows up with a vicious crescent kick to the head but then Ibushi reversed offense with a terrific rana.
Ibushi with a Nakamura type Bomaye at the 11-minute mark. This led to a close near fall after more offense by Kota (again this is not easy to keep up with!). Ospreay knocked Kota off the top rope and Ibushi was stuck upside down but in an awesome spot, they exchanged slaps while Ibushi was stuck upside down in the corner!
Ibushi reversed Will’s offense from the top rope and landed a double stomp while Ospreay was spread out on the top rope. He followed up with a (failed) belly to back from the middle rope which Will reversed a la the amazing tag match with Kenny and Tana a few weeks ago. An awesome spot there and Kota sold it incredibly well. Kota landed the straight jacket for a near fall at the 16-minute mark. Great near fall off a package type piledriver by Kota at 17 minutes. Will follows up the kick out with a vicious blow from behind to the back of the head (follow up to the Bomaye). Ospreay follows up with a storm breaker (Ibushi sold being out before this move) for the clean pin at the 18-minute mark.
This match told a great story and the offense was pretty amazing non-stop action but also some good selling. I would have liked to have seen this go another five to ten minutes and the story was certainly set up to really push Ospreay as a legit heavyweight which I am all for. I had enormously high hopes for this match and maybe it wasn’t quite to that match of the year level but great overall offense and selling.
IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championship — Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado (c) vs. Roppongi 3K vs. BUSHI & Shingo Takagi:
They started the match with a wide camera shot to show the back and forth diving offense by the various teams particularly Sho and Yo. I thought this was a bit distracting. Sho and Yo were on most of the offense against the champs in the early going. Sho and Yo continued to dominate offense for the first five minutes before Shingo Takagi became involved and took over with some more powerful offense.
Takagi hit Last of the Dragon on Sho and that was the end of the match at about the seven-minute mark. This match was obviously too short to really get going but Takagi was pretty awesome on offense. They told a story where Kanemaru and Desperado were completely out of the match and were not involved in the finish which is kind of unusual for the champs in New Japan.
RevPro British Heavyweight Championship — Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: My guy Taka Michinoku is doing his usual amazing job as the Hype Man. I love this guy. ZSJR was so on fire after the New Japan Cup last year, I hope this match gets him moving back in that direction.
Ishii tried an aggressive kick to open things up but he was too slow for Zack who took over and immediately hit a kick and started stretching Tomohiro. Ishii had to get to the ropes for a break very early on in the match (just over one minute). Continued dominance on offense by Zack as there was another rope break at the three-minute mark. Ishii finally gets on offense and works over ZSJR’s ankle and then ran him over as if he were a tank. Ishii with some continued high impact offense along with a really impressive belly to belly. Ishii hit an impressive superplex but ZSJ was able to take that shot and work over the arm of Tomohiro as the match hits six minutes.
Zack turns a submission hold into a suplex for an impressive looking near fall at seven and a half minutes in. He followed up with the PK but could not hit the Zack driver. They then exchanged blows in the center of the ring and Ishii got the best of that as one might expect. After some back and forth offense Ishii landed two vicious clotheslines. Some great mat wrestling showed that Ishii is amazingly athletic for the tank type guy that he is.
ZSJR locked in one of his amazing submission moves (I’ll have to defer to Sean or Rich for the proper call on this) that I would best call a double octopus type move and Ishii TAPS OUT! This made perfect sense because that was some vicious offense The match only went about 12 minutes but it was pretty great and the sudden ending made perfect sense.
Man, I loved this match. I do not feel I am doing justice to the amazing submission style wrestling that took place here coupled with HARD hitting action.
IWGP Tag Team Championship — Guerrillas of Destiny (c) vs. EVIL & Sanada vs. The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson): They gave the Guerrillas the full ring entrance and they wore some sort of Deadpool inspired gear on and all of their friends (such as Fale) accompanied them to ringside. Chris Charlton pointed out the new “Good Guy” persona Tama Tonga has taken on on Twitter which is pretty funny.
Tama Tonga tried to shake the hands of his opponents but no one was willing to partake. However, Evil used this as a way to tag himself in the match. Matt Jackson got hit with a clothesline by Evil on the entrance ramp and the assumption is that his back is pretty messed up yet again
Nick had Evil in the Boston Crab and Tama Tonga (the Good Guy!) convinced his Tonga Loa not to break it up and he encouraged Evil to break the hold fair and square! (pretty clever I think). Evil was able to tag in Sanada who took over offense on Nick Jackson who was then able to tag to Tama Tonga.
At the six-minute mark, Sanada took over with some great flying offense outside the ring. After some rapid tags, Matt Jackson hit a spear on Tonga Loa, Matt is still selling the back pretty obviously here. After more rapid-fire offense, Nick Jackson hit a 450 on Sanada. Bad Luck Fale did interfere in the match but he was knocked out of the ring in pretty short order. Jado was also interfering but the Bucks hit a SuperKick on him.
Evil and Sanada took over on offense at about the nine-minute mark and quickly knocked the Bullet Club out of the ring before hitting Matt Jackson with some pretty impressive double team offense and scored the clean pin at about the ten-minute mark after a Sanada Magic Killer and Moonsault. Kevin Kelly points out that LIJ is 2-0 on the night so far.
Again, overall a very good match given the time constraints and given the fact that this match probably wasn’t going to feature the Young Bucks all that strongly. I’m actually pretty interested in the “Good Guy” Tama Tonga and for the second time tonight the champs have lost the tag belts without being involved in the actual pin.
At this point, the Torch Coverage is going to tag in Rich Fann although I will try to add a comment or two to his match summaries.
IWGP United States Championship — Cody (c) vs. Juice Robinson:
Match started with a Cody sneak attack before the bell, which Juice countered. After another exchange, Cody came up lame on his knee, but Juice didn’t relent, pressing on the gas and nailed a Juice Box. Instead of a pin, Robinson went to the top rope, which gave Brandi Rhodes an opportunity to cover Cody and protect him from Juice’s attack. Moving to the apron, Cody and Juice traded attempts at their finishers on the hardest part of the ring, with Juice finally thrown into the post and to the floor. Back in the ring, Cody took control, and Kevin Kelly noted that both Cody and Brandi are wearing Jacksonville Jaguars colors due to their association with AEW and the Khan family. While Tiger Hattori is distracted with Cody, Brandi hits her bionic spear and mounted Juice. Tiger escorted Brandi out of the ring and ejected Brandi. In-ring, Cody hit Cross Rhodes for a 2.5 count, then attempted Din’s Fire – which Juice finally countered out of and hit a Cross Rhodes on Cody for a long 2 count. After he preened a little, Cody hits Juice with a slightly less effective Juice Box for a 2 count. Kelly chimed in at this point, and noted that win or lose, Cody would be receiving meniscus surgery on his knee and pushed through for this defense.
A punching exchange led to a Left Hand of God by Juice, but before he could hit it Cody superkicked him. Another attempt by Cody is blocked, and Juice hit Pulp Friction. Instead of a pin, Juice picked Cody up for another Pulp Friction for the pin and the IWGP U.S. Championship. Good if short match, but given Cody’s injury it made sense to be short and sweet. The constant references to AEW and Chris Charlton going as far as to say during the match it could be interpreted as an interpromotional affair could bode well for an AEW/New Japan relationship long-term
Winner: Juice Robinson by pinfall in 9:06 via Pulp Friction
Kuester Adds: I agree with Rich on the prominent mentions of AEW which I find encouraging. Also, I liked seeing the more mature and vicious Juice even though he is still clearly a good guy but it seems like he has progressed since winning the U.S Title the first time.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight. Champion KUSHIDA vs. Taiji Ishimori
Pre-match, a fun open for champion KUSHIDA, with a child in a KUSHIDA mask being sold as his past self there for the match. After “Doc Brown” (Taguchi) made a few changes to the dial, out came full adult KUSHIDA, ready to defend his title.
After the bell, it was fast and furious with both Ishimori and KUSHIDA exchanging quick attacks, with Ishimori having KUSHIDA locked in a Labell Lock in the middle of the ring. After KUSHIDA escaped, he was eventually trapped on the second rope, which was compounded by Ishimori sliding under KUSHIDA for a sliding german suplex. Ishimori wasn’t able to capitalize, however, as KUSHIDA slipped a keylock on to work on Ishimori’s arm. At every turn, KUSHIDA’s attempts to push the pace were thwarted by the power of Ishimori, until a mishap involving the referee gave KUSHIDA room to punt Ishimori’s arm and work his style again. A partial Hoverboard Lock by KUSHIDA was reversed and powered into a Death Valley Driver by Ishimori, again highlighting the challenger’s sheer power in his “muscle hamster” frame. KUSHIDA hit a Back to the Future, and attempted to double up on the move, but Ishimori powered out. KUSHIDA hit his punch, but another attempt at Back to the Future failed. Ishimori hit Bloody Cross for the win and the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight title.
Winner: Taiji Ishimori by pinfall in 10:42 via Bloody Cross
Kuester Adds: Good match, I liked the mat based focus at times. If Kushida is off to WWE I hope they give him a great opportunity to excel.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White
Clad in white and escorted to the ring by Gedo, Jay White looked like a million bucks walking down to the ring in preparation for his match with Okada.
No t-shirt, no balloons, All Rainmaker as Okada makes his way to the ring. Clad back in his traditional garb, though with a new chain and rope, Okada oozed confidence that befits the former 720 day IWGP Champ. Kevin Kelly noted that in his pre-match chat with Okada, the Rainmaker noted that Jay White was the toughest foreigner in the company – tougher than Jericho or Omega. The crowd erupted when Okada de-robed and it was seen that he was back in his traditional shorts and not the “Okada Pants” he was known for post-title match.
At the bell, both competitors sized each other up, with Okada with the advantage, until a trip on an irish whip by Gedo gave Switchblade the edge. A Saito suplex over the top by White dumped Okada to the floor, where Jay White whipped Okada into the guard rail several times. In ring, a cravate by White was fought out of by Okada. White tried to preen in front of Okada after a corner exchange in his favor and ate a slap by the Rainmaker. While Okada had taken over control of the match, Don Callis noted that Okada’s offense is similar to Bret Hart, in that you know what’s coming but the lethality is in how well the practitioner does them. White took a powder to the outside, which gave Gedo an opportunity to try and sneak up on Okada. Okada saw this coming however and hit a cross body on both Gedo and White. Back into the ring, Okada hit an elbow from the top and the Rainmaker pose, another sign the full Rainmaker had returned. White reversed a Rainmaker attempt and hit a hellacious uranage for a 2 count. Gedo slid a steel chair to the side of the ring and tried to get the ref’s attention, however Okada shoved White (with chair) into Gedo and nailed two beautiful dropkicks. Another Rainmaker attempt was countered by White, this time into a suplex that dumped Okada onto his head.
A Kiwi Crusher attempt got 2.5 for White, and a Blade Runner was reversed by Okada into the Tombstone piledriver. Back to their feet, a dropkick by Okada was missed, which led to a sequence of a Blade Runner into a backslide Rainmaker attempt and ending with dropkick by Okada. At this point, both men just countered everything, with a discus Rainmaker finally hitting White. Another Rainmaker attempt is countered and White hit the Blade Runner for a stunning win.
Winner: Jay White by pinfall in 14:18 via Blade Runner
Kuester Adds: I loved the match but I would have changed that finish on the fly. Okada was MEGA over and at the big card of the year I think send the crowd home happy when in doubt. This crowd was ready to explode in support of Okada.
IWGP Intercontinental Champion Chris Jericho vs. Tetsuya Naito
Jericho is known now as “The Alpha” Chris Jericho in his ring announcement, and the jacket he’s worn to the ring needs to be seen – as it’s the best of Road Warriors x Motley Crue. Charlton notes that Naito has learned from prior exchanges with Jericho, already out of his LIJ suit and ready to wrestle, “no longer tranquilo” and that point is further proven by Naito hitting Jericho before the bell and dumping him outside. Because the wrestlers wouldn’t listen, Red Shoes started the match as the brawl continued outside. Naito dumped Jericho on his head with a delayed piledriver on the stage and dragged the Fozzy frontman to the ring. Don Callis noted that Jericho changed wrestling last year walking away from the WWE and reinventing himself in New Japan. Charlton noted that Jericho has also colored the title in a way similar to Nakamura, as Naito removed a ring pad and hit Jericho with it.
Naito dumped Jericho outside, then attempted his Tranquilo fake dive, going a step further and instead attempted a true dive, which Jericho countered with a kendo stick shot to the head. Now in command, Jericho peppered Naito with shots, and looked at Masahiro Chono at ringside commentating for the Japanese feed and asked, “do you like that sh-t?”
Naito tried to fire back, but Jericho still had the kendo stick so that was short lived. Jericho dropped the kendo stick long enough to hit his springboard dropkick, which Callis noted he first debuted in 1993 in Japan. Jericho bounced Naito off the floor with a dropkick, then sent the announcers running as he hit a spike DDT on Naito on the announce table, which did not break.
Jericho rang the bell and declared himself the winner, which Red Shoes and the crowd vociferously disagreed with. A lionsault gets two, and Kelly noted that there’s a hole where Naito landed on the table, and Kelly mentioned that Austin and The Rock, two equals of Jericho “arguably” couldn’t put together combined the 20 years without injury Jericho has wrestled. Naito absorbed kicks to the face from Jericho to spit in Jericho’s face and hit a neckbreaker from the corner for a near fall. With Jericho down, Naito stepped on his head and spat again, doing his LIJ pose. Jericho countered a gabron attempt into a Walls of Jericho, which Naito fought out of and stopped a Code Breaker attempt by Jericho as a follow-up. Naito hit Gloria for a two count, and his Destino attempt was countered into a Walls of Jericho, dragged back to the center of the ring after attempting to touch the ropes (which shouldn’t matter in a no DQ match?) and Naito escaped with the still in ring kendo stick. Now with the stick, Naito extracted some payback with shots of his own on Jericho. Naito wound up like a baseball player to hit a home run off the dome of Jericho, but Jericho countered with a Code Breaker for a 2.4 count. Jericho left the ring and dumped 8 chairs into the ring. An attempted powerbomb onto the chairs by Jericho turned into a Naito DDT of Jericho onto the chairs, and then a Naito Code Breaker for a near 3 fall. Jericho tried to suplex Naito, but ate a German suplex onto the chairs, and a Jericho shove of Red Shoes allows Jericho to kick low Naito and hit a Code Breaker for a 2.9 count. Jericho left the ring to grab the Intercontinental title, screamed, “you want to be champ you son of a bitch?” and ran at Naito with the title. Naito threw Jericho into the exposed turnbuckle from earlier head first and nailed a Destino for a nail-biting long 2 count. Naito hits Jericho with the belt, chucked it into the ringside area and hit another Destino for the win and the IWGP Intercontinental championship. “The global superstar has been ground to dust by the Star Dust Genius” yelled Charlton.
Winner: Tetsuya Naito by pinfall in 22:30 via Destino
Kuester Adds: Well that was really great. A super face/heel dynamic. I really should have had higher expectations for that match.
IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega vs. G1 Climax 28 Winner Hiroshi Tanahashi
Omega and Tanahashi started the match with a typical rope exchange that would end with minor pats to the chest/face, but Tanahashi had different ideas. When Omega patted him on the cheek, Tanahashi returned fire with a live round slap to Omega’s face. Tanahashi then moved to the ground, getting Omega into an Indian deathlock and exchanged slaps to the face until a rope break ended the hold. At this point Charlton and Callis noted that Omega and Tanahashi come from different “ages” of New Japan – Tanahashi holding on and dragging New Japan from the “dark ages” into the current era, with Omega being the man of this current era. Omega and Tanahashi continued to go shot for shot with forearms, slaps and punches, and Omega gained the advantage after a high angle back suplex. Tanahashi rolled outside, which opened him up to Omega hitting another back suplex on the ring apron and then dumped Tanahashi into the announce area, hitting Milano Collection A.T.
With Tanahashi incapacitated, Omega pulled a table out from under the ring. Before he could do damage with it, Tanahashi assaulted him and, rather than putting Omega on the table, threw him into the ring, showing he wasn’t going to stoop to those tactics to win the title. Both competitors went back to haymaker shots in the center of the ring, and ended with Tanahashi on target with a Slingblade like spin punch to Omega’s head. Omega tried to kick Tanahashi away, but received a dragonscrew legwhip. Tanahashi followed with his somersault senton and a two count, but his Slingblade attempt was blocked and Omega hit a Kotaro Crusher which spilled Tanahashi to the outside. Before Omega could hit his Rise of The Terminator, Tanahashi got back into the ring and hit a dropkick to the boos of many in the crowd. Tanahashi couldn’t rest on his laurels, as Omega hit a snap frankensteiner and hit Rise of the Terminator. It was not a total success, as Omega’s flight path hit both Tanahashi and the hard ramp area. Instead of taking the count out, Omega rolled Tanahashi under the bottom rope and into the ring, and followed with a dropkick from the top rope to the back of Tanahashi’s head.
Omega hit a pair of snap dragon suplexes, with Tanahashi standing up each time. A V-Trigger put Tanahashi down, but Omega’s follow up of a One-Winged Angel was countered. The sequence ended with a “You Can’t Escape” by Kenny Omega, which was stopped pre-flip by Tanahashi (due to Omega’s knee going out prior to hitting the corner) and Tanahashi hit the nastiest dragonscrew legwhip I’ve seen in a while from the corner to the mat. With Omega down at the 20-minute mark Tanahashi locked in a Texas Cloverleaf, that he transitioned to a Styles Clash for a near fall. From there, the Ace of the Universe went for a High Fly Flow, but Omega got his knees up at the last nanosecond. With Tanahashi in the corner, Omega went for a V-Trigger and missed, crashed into the turnbuckle and writhed in pain.
After both attempted to leave the ring to the floor, Tanahashi caught Omega’s leg and dragonscrew whipped it in the ropes, and then a Slingblade onto the ring apron. With Omega incapacitated, Tanahashi put him on the previously set up table, and failed to hit a High Fly Flow from the top rope through the table as Omega moved. With Tanahashi out on the floor, Omega again decided against winning via count out and rolled Tana back into the ring. While Tanahashi was draped on the ropes, Omega hit a double stomp, and then several Tenryu-like powerbombs, each to 2 counts.
After both men went down during another exchange, Omega hit Tanahashi with a Slingblade and High Fly Flow. Tanahashi kicked out at one and then ate a reverse rana after another V-Trigger/Slingblade attempt exchange ended in Omega’s favor. Tanahashi got himself near the ropes and received another V-Trigger, but gave a reverse rana of his own when Omega went yet again for the One-Winged Angel. Tanahashi’s dragon suplex to follow only got a two count, and the two High Fly Flows he hit in succession resulted again in an Omega kick out. Tanahashi attempted to go to the top rope again, but Omega hit a V-Trigger and then a super dragon suplex off the top for a near fall and the gasps of the audience and announcers alike.
The finishing sequence led with another One Winged Angel attempt that was countered with a combination of a Famouser/Knee to Face and Tanahashi followed with a Slingblade and High Fly Flow to become the 8-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Both Omega and Tanahashi laid on the mat for several moments before Tanahashi rose to accept his prize and thank the 39,000+ that attended. By match end even Callis, an admitted “homer” for Omega could only smile and acknowledged the greatness of the Ace of New Japan. It is also notable that, like his prior feud with Okada, despite the loss at no point did Tanahashi receive a One Winged Angel.
Winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi by pinfall in 39:13 via High Fly Flow
Kuester Adds: That was an epic match and a fitting end to a tremendous card and a tremendous story of Tanahashi going from appearing to be one step behind the championship level of wrestlers to once again being the Ace of New Japan. To be able to watch this card on NJPW World (and no doubt a compelling New Year’s Dash show tomorrow) for about $9 makes this show a strongly recommended show easily.