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WRESTLE KINGDOM 14
JANUARY 4, 2020
TOKYO, JAPAN AT THE TOKYO DOME
AIRED LIVE ON NEW JAPAN WORLD STREAMING & FITE.TV
BY RICH FANN, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Commentators: Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton, Gino Gambino, Rocky Romero.
In a dark match prior to the pre-show, STARDOM featured a tag-team match between Mayu Iwatani & Arisa Hoshiki vs. Guilia & Hana Kimura, which was won by Iwatatani & Hoshiki.
(Pre-show match 1) Toa Henare, Alex Coughlin, Clark Connors & Karl Fredericks defeated Great Bash Heel (Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe), Yuya Uemura & Yota Tsuji – 8-man tag team match
(Pre-show match 2) TenCozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima) defeated Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi – Tag team match
(1) Jyushin Thunder Liger & Tatsumi Fujinami & The Great Sasuke & Tiger Mask (w/El Samurai) vs. Naoki Sano & Shinjiro Otani & Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Ryusuke Taguchi (w/Kuniaki Kobayashi) – Liger Retirement w/Norio Honaga as special guest referee
This was the first of two Liger retirement matches over the two day Wrestle Kingdom 14 weekend.
As the participants entered the ring, the other commentators joked with Rocky Romero he was old enough to have wrestled all of the participants in the match, which led to a cool anecdote from Romero about Scott “Flash” Norton insinuating Rocky was around during his IWGP reign. “I was 12!” exclaimed Rocky to laughs from his partners. Chris Charlton also noted during the entrances that Liger was potentially the only person to have wrestled every iteration of Tiger Mask.
Liger & Sano opened the match with a solid exchange to the explosive appreciation of the crowd. Sano dumped Liger to the floor with a dropkick and followed with a dive through the second rope outside. Back in the ring, Sano tagged in Otani, who facewashed Liger in the corner.
“It’s worse with a mask, I’ve been on the other end of that many times” – Rocky Romero, who portrayed Black Tiger III.
Liger tagged out to Tiger Mask, and after a few exchanges Tiger Mask hit a Tiger Bomb and tagged out to Fujinami, who gave now-legal Takaiwa a dragonscrew legwhip before Fujinami tagged in Great Sasuke. Sasuke ran wild, then both Taguchi and Liger were tagged in. Liger hit a ferocious shotei, but a series of enziguiri dropped Liger, who ate a Bum-a-ye for the pinfall loss. After the match, Liger embraced all of the men involved in the mach and thanked them as he raised their arms and left in unison.
WINNERS: Ryusuke Taguchi in 8:13 by pinfall (***)
(Fann’s Analysis: Solid goodbye to Liger via a match that held so many memorable spots from legends of the junior scene. Relatively short match to make sure that everyone was tight. Outstanding crowd reactions throughout the match, and my only complaint was the camera work missed a Sasuke dive toward the finish of the match.)
(2) Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL, SANADA & Shingo Takagi & Bushi) vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr. & El Desperado)
As LIJ made their entrance, Kevin Kelly noted that SANADA has an opportunity to win the RPW-and-New Japan-sanctioned title from Zack Sabre Jr. tomorrow, which would be SANADA’s first singles title. Kelly then highlighted SANADA’s strong 2019 in the New Japan Cup and his matches with Okada.
The entire Suzuki-gun squad entered, however the familiar tones of ‘Kaze ni nare’ (Suzuki’s theme) was nowhere to be heard. Upon Zack Sabre Jr.’s arrival during Suzuki-gun’s entrance LIJ was jumped by their opponents pre-bell. Once some order was restored, Suzuki & EVIL squared off in the ring, with Suzuki locked into dropping EVIL with an early Gotch Style Piledriver, which EVIL fought off.
Suzuki then tagged in Desperado, whose attempt at a pinfall was kicked out of at two by EVIL. Taichi then tagged in, who poked at EVIL with kicks, which woke up the strong man of LIJ. EVIL tagged in Shingo Takagi, who worked his way through all of the Suzuki-gun members – and finally returned back to Taichi, who got a quick kick off and hit his pants removal spot. After a third kick to the head from Taichi, Shingo returned fire and both men went down.
“Junior heavyweight speed, super heavyweight power!” – Kevin Kelly on Shingo.
SANADA and ZSJ tagged in, with a preview of tomorrow’s match, and Desperado’s attempt to interview opened the masked Suzuki-gun member to a Paradise Lock.
A Paradise Lock attempt to ZSJ began a series of pinfall attempts by both men, until LIJ hit the ring en masse and hit ZSJ with combination moves. Bushi tagged in and ZSJ recovered and slapped his double arm submission onto Bushi for the submission, then held the hold long after the bell.
WINNERS: Zack Sabre Jr. (and Suzuki-gun) in 8:39 by submission (**)
(Fann’s Analysis: This match progressed the story of Zack avenging his loss to Bushi earlier in the year, as well as the LIJ-SG feud, but the way that Minoru Suzuki was treated almost as an afterthought in the match was a sight to see. Sabre holding onto the submission after .)
(3) CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Yoshi-Hashi) vs. Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens & Kenta & Yujiro Takahashi w/Pieter Rabbit)
Members of the Japanese Rugby team that had attended school with Fale accompanied Bullet Club to the ring in official BC track suits. Chris Charlton notes this is the first time Kenta has been in the Tokyo Dome in over 10 years.
Yano insisted that he started the match for CHAOS, up until he turned around after the bell and saw Fale. Solid physical comedy with Yano, who sought his corner rope strip spot prior to Fale’s tag in of Chase Owens. Now no longer the legal man, Fale terrorized CHAOS members outside of the ring, while Yano tagged out to Yoshi-Hashi. Fale tagged back in and menaced Yoshi-Hashi, with a particularly insulting pinfall attempt using only his foot on Yoshi-Hashi’s chest only getting a two count. Bullet Club continued fast tag outs to Owens and Yujiro to keep Yoshi-Hashi in, but Ishii made the save and tagged himself in. Ishii then attempted a suplex onto Fale, which didn’t work.
With the ring cleared up, Goto and Kenta tagged in and both men went at each other with hellacious lariats, then as Goto gained advantage, Chase Owens shouted for Kenta to tag out to Yujiro. Goto then was attacked three-on-one with Yujiro, Owens and Fale with Kenta’s watchful eye. All of the members began to hit power moves on the other faction, until Ishii returned to the ring and hit a brain buster onto Fale to the amazement of the crowd!
Goto then hit a Ushigoroshi and GTR onto Yujiro with Kenta’s eyes locked on him for the win.
WINNERS: Hirooki Goto (and CHAOS) in 8:27 by pinfall (***)
(Fann’s Analysis: Another relatively breezy match – and Tokyo Dome Goto was here and not messing around. Yujiro & Yano’s silliness were mitigated by the high impact styles of Goto, Fale and the rest. I really liked the finish in particular because Kenta was dead set against getting in the ring until he had to – and then with the GTR onto Yujiro could only watch in disgust/hatred as his stablemate was wrecked by Goto. Their match tomorrow for the NEVER Openweight Title should be great!)
(4) Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tonga Loa w/Jado) vs. FinJuice (Juice Robinson & David Finlay) – IWGP Tag Team Title match
Romero and Kelly noted that this was the first time competitors like Juice – who has an IWGP US Title match on night two – have to block out that second match for the sake of the title match at hand.
G.o.D.’s dominance in the tag division was highlighted, but FinJuice met the Tongans on the ramp and began the fight early. While the match hadn’t started officially, Tama Tonga hit a back body drop onto the ramp onto Juice, then sauntered to the ring. Tiger Hattori called for the bell and the match began with both members of G.o.D. doubled up on Juice Robinson.
Finlay finally made it to the corner and tagged in, but soon the 3rd generation wrestler was in trouble himself, as Tonga Loa slammed Finlay on his surgically-repaired shoulder via the top rope. G.o.D. then focused on isolation and punishment of Finlay, as Juice could only look on in horror. Finlay attempted a comeback via chops to the chest of Loa, who laughed and hit a punch in the face to stop the efforts. Loa attempted a splash into the corner, but Finlay sacrificed his shoulder to spear Loa and open the chance to tag in Juice.
Robinson was a house of fire and delivered spinebusters to both Tama Tonga and Tonga Loa, then followed with lariats – and then cannonballs – to both members of G.o.D.
Tonga Loa ate a few rights, but blocked the Left Hand of God and hit a german suplex to get separation from the excitable Robinson. From the apron Tama Tonga began to call for double team onto Juice, who countered with kicks to the heads of both men. FinJuice now had the driver’s seat – and an attempt at a Power Plex was countered with powerbomb by Tonga Loa followed by a splash by Tama Tonga. Juice broke the pinfall up, and Finlay fought out of a Magic Killer. A second attempt succeeded, but as the brothers preened during the pin, Juice again broke up the pinfall. “Super powerbomb” was yelled by Jado from the floor. With Tama already in celebration mode Finlay reversed into a frankensteiner, and after a few exchanges even a Jado kendo shot couldn’t get G.o.D. the win.
Juice reversed an attempt at Ape-Sh*t, hit multiple Left Hand of Gods onto Tonga Loa, then Juice and Finlay hit a shurinai for the win!
WINNERS: FinJuice in 13:39 by pinfall and NEW IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions. (***)
(Fann’s Analysis: G.o.D.’s unfortunate streak continues, but this was a solid solid tag team match. Tonga and Loa have really hit their stride as the spine of the heavyweight tag division – and while I would have liked their first defense to have occured, FinJuice have been a joy to watch.
The formula of Fin in peril is great, their tag league run and this subsequent match was a great journey, and Juice Robinson has found that mix between fanciful and serious fighter. Between their matching outfits and their genuine appreciation for one another in promos, this tag team isn’t a hodgepodge, it’s a brotherhood. Tomorrow night Juice can become “Juicy Two Belts” – and that poses a really interesting proposition!)
(5) Lance Archer (c) vs. Jon Moxley – IWGP U.S. Title match under Texas Death match rules (No DQ, No Countout, 10 count rule for knockout or submission)
Moxley started the match hot, with a tope suicida onto Archer after some boots pre-introductions. Kelly noted that this is the first meeting between the two men. Due to the no countout/dq rules, the men fought inside the fence area between the fans and media. Moxley then threw Archer back into the ring and grabbed a kendo stick under the ring. Moxley climbed to the top rope, but a chair from Archer put him down with the quickness.
Archer then began to wail on Moxley with trash can lids, until Archer picked up the kendo stick and used it to choke and beat on Moxley. Archer attempted to walk the tightrope and slipped, which opened the door for Moxley to wail on the Texan with the kendo stick. Archer was then suplexed through two chairs for a five count. Archer rolled out of the ring to his feet, then outside of the ring chokeslammed Moxley – and then in a particularly amazing spot chokeslammed a young boy onto Moxley, then suicide dove over the top rope onto a collection of Moxley and young boys.
Archer hit his Blackout reverse powerbomb onto four chairs onto Moxley, then hit the EBD claw onto a chair, which bounced Moxley’s head off of a chair, until Moxley reversed into an armbar. After another exchange of moves, Moxley hit a sudden Death Rider for a 9 count. Moxley went for the Death Rider, but Archer reversed and the two bounced off the ropes for an Archer Pounce and a chokeslam onto a chair for a 9.5 count – and an Archer boot to the head!
Archer then reached into his pocket for a plastic bag to suffocate Moxley with the EBD claw. Moxley went out, but before Asami could count the third arm fall as a knockout, Moxley shot his arm into the air.
Both men fought to hit their moves onto two tables set up outside, but Moxley was able to nail his Death Rider DDT – and made it to his feet to win back his IWGP US title!
Post match, Moxley grabbed the mic and declared himself a gambler – and called Juice out with a declaration of the score being settled once and for all tomorrow night.
WINNER: Jon Moxley in 14:23 by knockout and NEW IWGP US Champion (****)
(Fann’s Analysis: That was the absolute perfect match for these two men. They beat the tar out of each other and there wasn’t a transition into wacky spots or anything that made you the viewer or the Tokyo Dome audience groan. Archer’s 2019 was amazing and this match was a heck of a way to cap off his US title reign and start his 2020.)
(6) Will Ospreay (c) vs. Hiromu Takahashi – IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title match
At the bell, both men feinted attacks and instead measured each other up. After a quick exchange Ospreay surfed Hiromu’s back and took perch on the top rope. Back in the middle of the ring, both men countered the other’s best opening attack, until Hiromu hit a headscissors. Hiromu took the fight to the outside, where he hit an apron bomb onto Ospreay and followed with a shotgun dropkick into the guardrail.
Back in the ring, Ospreay hit a draping DDT onto Hiromu, which had Asami the referee checking on the LIJ junior heavy. Ospreay then began to target the head and neck of Hiromu, which calls back to Chris Charlton’s declaration earlier in the match that Ospreay would be more than happy to be the ‘black hat’ in a match with Hiromu.
Ospreay put a variant of the Koji clutch onto Takahashi, forcing the pressure onto the neck. Hiromu used his foot to get to the rope and stop the damage. After another exchange the men went to the floor, where Ospreay’s Sasuke Special was countered and led to an insane sequence you’d have to see to believe, culminating in the original Sasuke Special being hit. Pip Pip Cheerio had Hiromu on the ropes back in ring, but a shotgun dropkick onto Ospreay evened the odds.
At this point the crowd began to boo as Ospreay wore onto the neck and head of Hiromu. On the second rope, Ospreay placed Hiromu onto his shoulder, but Hiromu rolled through for a 2.9 count. Hiromu hit the Dynamite Plunger for another long 2 count, and Hiromu’s face was bloody. Ospreay hit a combo and then finished with the Robinson special. An Os-cutter was countered by Hiromu, but Ospreay hit Made in Japan onto Hiromu for a 2 count. Ospreay followed with a shooting star press to the back of Hiromu for another 2 count – and an Oscutter follow up again only got a 2 count.
A Hidden Blade attempt was ducked by Hiromu, who hit a devastating pop up powerbomb for a two count – and then both men were laid out on the floor. From there, the pair dragged themselves to their knees, and then their feet to exchange kicks, chops and forearms.
Another Oscutter attempt was countered into a high-angle german suplex by Hiromu, whose follow up was countered by Ospreay, but then countered by Hiromu into a Candian Destroyer for 2.9999!
Ospreay ate two super kicks, but hit a hook kick and went for Storm Breaker, but was countered. Ospreay hit a Hidden Blade, but Hiromu hit a Yoshi Tonic combo, a lariat and a Time Bomb for a 2.9999999! The crowd at this point was molten.
Hiromu kept the pace, hit a rolling forearm and then a new, unknown head-and-arm trap spike finisher for the win!
WINNER: Hiromu Takahashi in 24:35 by pinfall and NEW IWGP Jr. Heavyweight champion (*****)
(Fann’s Analysis: Phenomenal match. The build to the Hidden Blade, working on Hiromu’s neck, as well as Ospreay’s ability to be a jerk to Hiromu but not be a full fledged heel was smart work. Hiromu was himself, but didn’t do anything I saw as insane or in any way put himself in a position to be out for another year. While Kelly cited this wasn’t a safe zone for Hiromu, the crazy factor was safely mitigated. The usage of his new finisher to drop Ospreay was brilliant.)
(7) “Switchblade” Jay White (c) (w/Gedo) vs. Tetsuya Naito – IWGP Intercontinental Title match
White began the match as he typically does – he bailed and antagonized his opponent and the referee to the jeers of the crowd. Naito left the ring and when White returned, instead of going after White, Naito grabbed the beard of Gedo, who screamed and howled for mercy.
After a return to the ring and a quick dropkick sequence Jay White bailed again, which allowed for Naito to hit his rolling Traquilo pose mid ring. After a sweep, Naito dragged White’s neck to the near outside of the ring and hit a draped neckbreaker from the ring to the floor. Afterwards, Naito threw White into the guard rail and stomped White out for good measure.
This was all for naught, as just when Naito thought he was in the ascent, Gedo began to interfere without the referee’s knowledge, which gave White the opening he needed. And take advantage White did – with chops and leg whips and assorted moves to the leg of Naito. White’s goal became clear – if Naito cannot do the Destino or any of his high impact moves, it would be an easy path for the Bullet Club leader to get into the double title match night two.
White began to irritate Naito to literally add insult to injury, firing challenges to Naito while locked in the Muta Lock, or after an especially vicious leg whip while Naito was in the ropes. From this point on in the match little things like even running the ropes were a struggle for Naito. In fact, there was a spot where Naito got a reversal and tried his patented springboard DDT, but his leg gave out and he collapsed before White was impacted. After three tries, White hit his Kiwi Crusher for two. White then went for his sleeper suplex, but after Naito fought him off White instead chopped the legs out from Naito and went for the inverted figure four. At this point the crowd was firmly shouting for Naito to fight back and reach the ropes, which he did. White tried to re-apply the hold after the rope break, but Naito spit on him (yuck) and then hit a head kick with his good leg to keep White at bay.
Naito went for Gloria, but White fought it off. This led to a longer sequence where the pair exchanged holds, which ended with White shoving Naito into Red Shoes, who collapsed as he is wont to do. Gedo then entered the ring and Naito caught him and kicked him in the groin, eliminating his threat. Naito however did not eliminate the threat of Jay White, who cracked Naito’s dome with a steel chair. White finally hit the sleeper suplex, but when he tried Blade Runner Naito fought for his life.
Both men went for the homerun finish late – going for Destinos and Blade Runners out of every transition, but Naito hit a reverse rana and Destino and got a 2.999 count. The sequence replayed itself, with this time White sure he had locked in the Blade Runner, but Naito spiked White with Valentia, then a final Destino won Naito the IWGP Intercontinental Title!
WINNER: Tetsuya Naito in 33:53 by pinfall and NEW IWGP Intercontinental champion (****)
(Fann’s Analysis: Jay White is so fun as a heel. Alan4L was right on the money with his effusive praise of the young man when he began this journey, and now White is a brilliant scumbag in the best way. Naito was his usual top notch self and the pair work so well together it’s automatic. If you get a chance to re-watch the match soon, note how smooth Gedo is with his cheating – it’s really a class in and of itself and Naito played into it so well. Speaking of Naito, his sell job of the knee and White constantly trying to slow the match down to be a complete tool got the crowd justifiably angry at White and behind Naito as he fought his way back. Going into night two, Naito can exorcise the demons of Wrestle Kingdoms past – but will it be against his online vote nemesis Okada or the day-one champion Ibushi?)
(8) “The Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. “Golden Star” Kota Ibushi (G-1 Climax Winner) – IWGP Heavyweight Title match
Ibushi’s entrance was as understated as Okada’s was grandiose. Okada’s entrance featured two video walls, three transitions and then his regular entrance. Okada also was noted to wear trunks – which means he has main evented Wrestle Kingdom in pants, trunks and shorts. #OkadaFacts
The match started with a ten minute feeling out process, with both Ibushi and Okada being very tentative as they attempted to gain advantage and work their opponent’s arm and head area. After a shoulder tackle from Okada, Ibushi kipped up and the two men stared each other down. A strike salvo ended with Okada going for a Rainmaker, but Ibushi ducked and hit a combo and a standing moonsault for a near fall.
Ibushi slowed things down a bit with a headlock, but Okada pushed the pace again, finishing a rope sequence with his back elbow/DDT combination for another near fall. At this point, Ibushi took a powder and Okada began to throw him into the barricades. Okada then had the audacity to hit a hanging DDT from the guard rail onto the floor to the horror of the announcers. Okada then faked throwing Ibushi into the rail again, but instead threw him into the ring for another DDT and another near fall. Okada then became the one who wanted to slow things down, but Ibushi sped the match back up, and countered Okada with a wicked kick to the ribs. After another reversal sequence, Okada dropkicked Ibushi from the top rope to the floor, and followed that with a boot and a splash over the guard rail. Back in the ring, Okada slapped on Red Ink to submit Ibushi, but the Golden Star got the ropes for the break.
Okada then hit a slam, followed with his elbow and the patented Rainmaker pose, but his Rainmaker was ducked by Ibushi, who also attempted some sort of Pele kick (which wound up with Ibushi just spiked onto his own head) which Okada countered into a tombstone piledriver. However, Ibushi countered that into a spike package piledriver to the gasps of the crowd. Ibushi then avoided the Okada dropkick and spiked the IWGP champ with a ridiculous double stomp in mid air. Okada at this point was winded and rolled out of the ring to catch his breath, but Ibushi hit the Golden Triangle Moonsault to the outside to prevent Okada from getting a moment’s rest.
Both men began to tumble and counter over the top rope and on the apron, and both failed to get the other in a tombstone on the apron (Okada to Ibushi) or a deadlift german suplex (Ibushi to Okada), but when Ibushi got Okada up to lawn dart him into the post, Okada reversed last second and successfully tombstone piledrove Ibushi on the apron.
And then the match got ultra violent.
After Ibushi made it prior to the 20 count back into the ring, Okada hit a german suplex, with the wrist control to allow a Rainmaker followup. However, Ibushi hit his own lariat, and both dropped to the mat. Ibushi hit his deadlift german outside in on Okada, and dropped the champ right on the noggin in the process and got a 2.6 count. Ibushi followed up with a lawn dart attempt again, but (again) Okada reversed into another tombstone – this time the spinning variety. Okada then went again for the Rainmaker, but Ibushi hit his own and collapsed again.
Ibushi nailed a head kick and a Bomaye but Okada only was down for a one count. Ibushi followed with another Bomaye and got a two count. Ibushi then hit another head kick and then the Kamigoye and got a 2.9! Ibushi tried for another, but Okada hit a drop kick that was so beautiful I felt the curvature of the Earth shift.
After some ridiculous strikes from the pair squared up, Ibushi got the advantage and began to rain pain all over Okada with kicks, slaps and shots to the face. At one point Red Shoes had to get between the two to protect Okada, with Ibushi still throwing kicks.
However, after the kick sequence Ibushi gassed out and collapsed. Back on his feet, Ibushi got Okada up on the top rope for a butterfly suplex or tiger driver, but Okada countered and wound up going for a drop kick from the top onto the fallen Ibushi. Ibushi however countered that into a falling powerbomb for a two count. Ibushi then indicated he would be going for the phoenix splash, but crashed and burned – which opened the door for Okada to hit a Discus Rainmaker, then a regular Rainmaker for just a two count!
Okada hit two successive Rainmakers, then went for a third but Ibushi countered with a V-Trigger and a Kamigoye. Mid move, Okada blocked and transitioned into a spike sit out tombstone. Okada then followed up with a final Rainmaker to retain the title.
Post match, we had the new IC champ Naito approach and stare down Okada, both getting in their poses for the fans and photographers along the way. After Naito departed, Okada addressed the crowd and we were on our way to night two of Wrestle Kingdom 14!
WINNER: Kazuchika Okada in 40:08 by pinfall to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Title (*****)
(Fann’s Analysis: This was a match that was greatness in motion. As I joked with Mike Sempervive on Twitter, we’re going to be looking at retirement matches with Okada with callbacks to callbacks from the last 20 years of his career and we haven’t seen it all yet. At 32 years old he is constantly raising the bar for what a champion, what a wrestler can do in that ring from a storytelling perspective. Watching the sequence in the corner where Ibushi beat the snot out of Okada with zero hesitation was jarring because the switch in Kota flipped and he kept it there the rest of the match. Ibushi’s quest to defeat Okada and win the title was thwarted today, but the journey continues for him. It was interesting that he chose to add in to his “gods of wrestling moveset” the V-Trigger. That speculation can be for another day, as now we know we’ll be treated to a phenomenal White/Ibushi match to accompany our Okada/Naito main event tomorrow.)
OVERALL THOUGHTS (10): If you didn’t like the openers, they were short and to the point. If you wanted to see state of the art, top notch soulful professional wrestling, New Japan’s top of the card gave you that and more. I highly recommend this show and if you haven’t – watch and then re-watch that main event. Whether your flavor of ice cream was the outstanding junior’s match or the heavyweight main event you were given excellence in those final 3-4 matches. Tomorrow’s card seems to be a strong show – and what a thing to say given how well this show went!
Contact Rich at PWTDive@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/rich_fann.