NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 13 Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2019

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 13 Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights

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    Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

    Championships were up for grabs, bragging rights at stake and careers altered forever Friday as New Japan Pro-Wrestling presented its biggest show of the year, Wrestle Kingdom 13.

    The event, headlined by a double main event of Kenny Omega vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and Chris Jericho vs. Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, wrapped several ongoing storylines and set the international promotion up for another banner year.

    Who emerged victoriously, which championships changed hands and how might all of it affect NJPW deep into 2019?

    Find out now with this recap of the annual extravaganza, streamed via New Japan World and the FITE TV app, live from the Tokyo Dome.

No. 1 Contender's Gauntlet Match for Never Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Titles

1 of 10

    Credit: New Japan Pro-Wrestling

    The night's festivities kicked off with a No. 1 Contender's Gauntlet Match for the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championships pitting five teams against each other for a shot at one of NJPW's most coveted prizes.

    The first two teams in the bout were The Bullet Club (Marty Scurll, Hangman Page and Yujiro Takahashi) and the trio of David Finlay, Yuji Nagata and Jeff Cobb. The match represented the 25th time Nagata took to the squared circle on January 4, according to the commentary team.

    Scurll and Nagata kicked things off before the action broke down, and Bullet Club established dominance courtesy of a series of standing shooting star presses and a buckshot lariat from Page.

    A moment of miscommunication on the part of Bullet Club allowed Finlay to roll Takahashi up and score the upset in the first fall. Bullet Club eliminated.

    Out next was Hirooki Goto, Chuckie T and Beretta of Chaos.

    The match remained fast-paced, with little or no order to speak of. A big Tope con Hilo from Chuckie T wiped Finlay and Cobb out at ringside and another, this time from Beretta, allowed the fresher trio to gain control. Back inside the squared circle, Goto dropped Nagata and isolated him in his team's corner.

    Nagata caught Beretta in an armbar but Chuckie T broke up the potential submission, much to the dismay of the fans inside the Tokyo Dome. The babyfaces fought back into the match, though, as Cobb impressed with a twisting side suplex and standing moonsault for a count of two.

    Not even the strong teamwork of Chuckie T and Beretta could eliminate the red-hot babyface trio as Finlay scored his second rollup of the bout, sending Chaos packing. Chaos eliminated.

    Suzuki-gun's Minoru Suzuki and The Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Lance Archer) hit the ring next as commentator Don Callis proclaimed them the most terrifying trio he has ever seen.

    The dangerous trio took the fight to the exhausted babyfaces before veterans Suzuki and Nagata paired off, unloading on each other with strikes. Their fight spilled to the outside, where Suzuki used a chair on Nagata. They continued brawling while back inside, Archer and Smith finished Finlay with the Killer Bomb. Finlay, Cobb and Nagata eliminated.

    The final team out was Ryusuke Taguchi, Toru Yano and Togi Makabe.

    The fight began before the team could even make it to the squared circle, with the heels obliterating the fresh team and singling out Taguchi. Yano and Makabe finally made it to ringside but were forced to watch as the overwhelming trio of Suzuki, Archer and Smith continued their punishment of the fun-loving fan favorite.

    A running hip check to Suzuki allowed Taguchi to make the tag to Makabe, whose entry into the match drew cheers from the fans. A stiff shot from Suzuki fired Makabe up and back-and-forth strikes ensued.

    Yano received the hot tag and exploded into the match but paid dearly for it as Killer Elite Squad grounded him with the Hart Attack. Unable to keep the comedic competitor down, Archer and Smith implored the official to count to three.

    Again the action broke down.

    A double clothesline from The Killer Elite Squad was broken up by Makabe, and Yano delivered a double low blow before rolling Smith up for the win. Suzuki-gun eliminated.

            

    Result

    Yano, Taguchi and Makabe won

           

    Grade

    C

              

    Analysis

    This was a whole lot of rollups.

    Too many, actually.

    In between moves, more moves and some strikes, there was little in the way of substance. Sure, there were hints of dissension between Chuckie T and Beretta, and the babyface trio of Cobb, Finlay and Nagata went on a nice run, but none of that really mattered or played into the outcome so it was for naught.

    Yano winning with a double low blow to KES made sense within the context of his character but why that trio was chosen for the future championship opportunity over Suzuki-gun is a mystery whose solution is likely and solid "why not?"

    Cobb was the standout in the match and should be a huge star for NJPW, Ring of Honor or whichever other promotion he competes for in 2019. His strength, technique and raw athleticism are somethings to behold.

    A good enough match to jump-start the night's show, but considering the talent involved, it was somewhat underwhelming.

Never Openweight Championship Match: Kota Ibushi vs. Will Ospreay

2 of 10

    Credit: New Japan Pro-Wrestling

    The actual pay-per-view portion of Friday's show kicked off with a NEVER Openweight Championship match guaranteed to blow the roof off the Tokyo Dome as Will Ospreay challenged Kota Ibushi.

    "This will be too quick to call," Don Callis warned on commentary as the competitors cut an electric pace from the opening bell.

    Ibushi took the first risk of the match, delivering a springboard moonsault that was countered by Ospreay with a midair kick to the midsection. A moonsault over the top rope wiped the champion out at ringside and gave the Briton an early advantage.

    Ospreay unloaded with uppercuts and chops and a big backbreaker, but Ibushi answered with a defiant headscissors that put the challenger down. With Ospreay at ringside, Ibushi delivered a springboard corkscrew moonsault. A springboard dropkick back inside wiped his opponent out and a roll-through German suplex netted Ibushi a two-count.

    Commentator Kevin Kelly reminded fans that the NEVER Openweight Championship had changed hands each of the last four years at Wrestle Kingdom, perhaps setting the stage for another switch in this, the opener of the 2019 NJPW event schedule.

    The competitors exchanged strikes, each daring the other to unload their hardest forearm or right hand. An electrifying exchange of reversals and counters ended with a standing Spanish Fly from Ospreay and a double-down ensued.

    Ospreay attempted a Stormbreaker, but Ibushi countered with a snap headscissors for a close near-fall. Ibushi followed with a running knee reminiscent of Shunsuke Nakamura's Kinshasa. A barely responsive Ospreay fell prey to a Last Ride powerbomb from Ibushi, who was unable to keep his challenger down for three.

    Ibushi scaled the ropes, but Ospreay clipped his legs out from underneath him, leaving the champion tied in the Tree of Woe. The Brit tried a series of insulting slaps, but Ibushi answered with some of his own, which were answered by stomps to the face from the challenger.

    The champion fought out up top and delivered a double stomp to the back of Ospreay's head. Blood pouring from his nose and mouth area, Ibushi delivered a German suplex from the top rope, but Ospreay landed on his feet. The champion tried for the Os-Cutter, but Ibushi countered into a straight jacket German suplex for two.

    Ospreay answered a lariat attempt with one of his own and again tried for the Stormbreaker. Ibushi again countered, this time into a package Tombstone for two.

    Ospreay fought back and with Ibushi mostly unresponsive to the official following a nasty elbow to the back of the head, he finished him off with the Stormbreaker.

           

    Result

    Ospreay defeated Ibushi to win the NEVER Openweight Championship

       

    Grade

    A

          

    Analysis

    What. An. Opener.

    This had a big-fight feel right out of the gate, and the intensity escalated throughout until an outstanding finish that saw Ospreay essentially knock Ibushi out with that wicked elbow to the back of the neck before delivering the Stormbreaker that had eluded him throughout the match.

    It is difficult to say whether Ibushi was legitimately knocked out by the elbow or if it was a clever injury angle to explain away the elite star's clean pinfall loss. If the latter is the case, it was an even more effective bit of storytelling that should set up another match between these two extraordinary athletes.

    This would be a difficult one for anyone else outside of the main events to eclipse.

3-Way for the IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championship

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    New Japan Pro-Wrestling

    The IWGP Junior Tag Team Championships were up for grabs as the teams of Roppongi 3K and Los Ingobernables de Japon's Shingo Takagi and Bushi challenged Suzuki-gun's El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru in a 3-Way match.

    Champions since March 6, 2018, Desperado and Kanemaru eyed history, seeking to become the longest-reigning Jr. Tag Team champions. To do so they, had to get through the opposition Friday and make it through the ensuing 44 days.

    Sho and Yoh of Roppongi took the fight to the opposition, wiping Takagi and Bushi out with stereo Tope con Hilos. Desperado and Kanemaru cut off another high-flying assault and worked on grounding the younger, faster team.

    A tag from Yoh to Sho led to an explosive comeback, complete with a series of clotheslines that grounded the champions. Takagi finally tagged into the bout as the LIJ team saw their first legal action of the bout. He cut off Sho's momentum with a series of back elbows and a big right hand.

    Sho took Shingo and Kanemaru down with a double German suplex spot as the action broke down again.

    Stereo jumping knees took Desperado out, and a springboard back elbow into the corner wore down Takagi.

    Lightning-quick action unfolded, and Takagi delivered Last of the Dragon on Sho to score the win and the titles.

           

    Result

    Takagi and Bushi defeated Kanemaru and Desperado and Roppongi 3K to win the IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championships

           

    Grade

    B-

            

    Analysis

    The 300-plus-day reign of Desperado and Kanemaru came to an end without the team actually being involved in the finish. That may be disappointing for some, but it sets up a rematch scenario in which the Suzuki-gun team can claim they unjustly lost their titles and shot at history.

    The match itself was nonstop action and from that perspective, it was a fun bout.

    Unfortunately, it was one of those matches will little in the way of substance. There were moves, there were high spots and near-falls that popped fans but nothing that really elevated it beyond a good-to-very good match.

British Heavyweight Championship Match: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

4 of 10

    Credit: New Japan Pro-Wrestling

    Revolution Pro's British Heavyweight Championship was up for grabs in the third match of the night as 2018 New Japan Cup winner Zack Sabre Jr. battled Tomohiro Ishii, hoping to win his home country's title.

    The Stone Pitbull would look to end Sabre's championship aspirations, despite the challenger vowing to tap him out in 60 seconds.

    Sabre was elusive early, catching his larger opponent with kicks, but Ishii leveled him with a suplex. The challenger applied an armbar but the champion made the ropes, necessitating the break. Himself approaching the match like a tenacious pitbull, Sabre continued to target the limbs of his opponent, applying another sickening armbar to the champion.

    Annoyed and irritated, The Stone Pitbull withstood the striking of Sabre but again found himself the victim of the challenger's submission-based arsenal. Ishii drove Sabre to the mat with a shoulder block. Up top, he delivered a vertical drop brainbuster but Sabre stayed in contact and almost broke Ishii's arm.

    Sabre continued to contort and manipulate the arm of Ishii, looking for that submission victory. A series of counters and reversals unfolded before the Englishman applied the octopus to his opponent.

    A nasty chop to the chest and throat area of Sabre allowed the champion to deliver a powerbomb for a close two-count. A headbutt from Ishii ended an exchange of strikes and a lariat earned him another near-fall, despite injuries already sustained to the limb.

    Sabre cut off a vertical drop brainbuster and applied a rear naked choke. A counter led to a rollup for two from Sabre. A hanging guillotine from Sabre was transitioned into another octopus, this one with both arms trapped.

    With no other option, Ishii submitted, awarding the match to Sabre.

           

    Result

    Sabre defeated Ishii to win the Revolution Pro British Heavyweight Championship

              

    Grade

    B

              

    Analysis

    Sabre is such an elusive, escape artist of a wrestler. His transitions are effortless and his submission arsenal extraordinary. He absorbed so much punishment from the powerhouse and still managed to tap the double-tough Stone Pitbull out clean in the center of the ring.

    After a year in which he won the New Japan Cup and saw his greatest success in NJPW, Sabre started 2019 by winning his third British Heavyweight Championship with a quality win over one of the more beloved competitors on the roster.

    Whether that is enough for him to take the next step and maybe win some New Japan gold is the question. Performances like this, and the momentum he built for himself over the last year, may demand as much.

3-Way IWGP Tag Team Championship Match

5 of 10

    Credit: New Japan Pro-Wrestling

    "Do they even deserve to be here?" Kevin Kelly asked his commentary partners as The Young Bucks made their way to the ring for a match in which they and Los Ingobernables' Evil and Sanada would challenge Bullet Club's Guerillas of Destiny, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa for the IWGP Tag Team Championships.

    Champions Loa and Tonga were accompanied by Jado and Bad Luck Fale, adding a sense of danger at ringside.

    The three teams brawled to start the match, including a nasty bodyslam and clothesline by Evil on Matt Jackson, triggering the back injury that has haunted The Young Bucks all of 2018.

    Back inside the squared circle, The Guerillas of Destiny worked over Evil, whose momentum had halted. The Young Bucks entered the match and paired off with Evil, wearing him down with a flipping neckbreaker combination while partner Sanada recovered at ringside.

    Sanada was soon back in and neutralized Matt Jackson, trapping him in the Paradise Lock. The rolling former champion delivered a dive to the outside that wiped out both Young Bucks, moments after thwarting a comeback by the champions Loa and Tonga.

    The nonstop action continued, each team gaining a momentary upper hand.

    Evil and Sanada scaled the ropes for what appeared to be a double suplex attempt, but the Guerillas of Destiny joined in for a tower of doom spot. With everyone down, Nick Jackson delivered a 450 splash to Sanada.

    Jado entered the ring, as did Fale. The former ate a double superkick from the Bucks and Evil cleared Fale out with a clothesline. Tonga wiped Sanada out with a spear, but a super powerbomb attempt by the champions was countered with a headscissors by Nick.

    Evil and Sanada brought a sudden and definitive end to the match, though, by wiping out Tonga and Loa before finishing Matt off with a Magic Killer and moonsault.

        

    Result

    Evil and Sanada defeated The Young Bucks and The Guerillas of Destiny to win the IWGP Tag Team Championships

       

    Grade

    B

            

    Analysis

    Los Ingobernables de Japon continued their roll with another high-profile victory in a match that, like the tag bout earlier in the show, was more style than substance. A lot happened, but there was little in the way of a story to be told, despite Kelly's attempts to put over Jackson's back injury.

    Loa and Tonga were, surprisingly, less of a factor than one would have expected and The Young Bucks' defeat feels more like them going away than furthering any kind of storyline. With the announcement of All Elite Wrestling, one has to wonder how much time and effort they can commit to NJPW going forward.

    Evil and Sanada winning the titles here was the right call given their immense popularity. And the fact they picked up the victory without actually beating The Guerillas of Destiny sets up at least one rematch that will, hopefully, better spotlight Tonga and Loa, especially given their status as the faces of The Bullet Club's Firing Squad.

IWGP United States Championship Match: Juice Robinson vs. Cody

6 of 10

    Credit: New Japan Pro-Wrestling

    Cody may have been celebrating the recent announcement of All Elite Wrestling, but Friday, he would defend the IWGP United States Championship against the man he defeated for it, the immensely popular Juice Robinson.

    The second-generation star ended Robinson's magical run, and the charismatic babyface sought to spoil Rhodes' monumental week by pinning his shoulders to the mat in front of a record crowd and The American Nightmare's wife, Brandi, who was at ringside.

    Cody tried to use the title as a weapon early, but Robinson dodged it. Cody delivered a big right hand off a feigned knee injury, but Robinson answered with a spinebuster. He hoisted the champion on his shoulders and delivered a Juice Box. Before he could follow up, Brandi entered the ring and prevented him from further punishing her husband.

    Cody set the challenger up for Cross Rhodes on the apron. Robinson countered into a Pulp Friction attempt, but the champion sent him shoulder-first into the steel post. Like a shark smelling blood, Cody targeted the shoulder of his opponent.

    As Cody distracted the official, Brandi entered the ring and took Robinson down with a spear. She unloaded with rights and lefts on the challenger before the official ordered her to the back. Back inside the squared circle, Cody delivered Cross Rhodes for a solid near-fall.

    Robinson tried for Pulp Friction moments later, but Cody countered. He tried for Cross Rhodes, but the challenger reversed into one of his own for another two-count.

    Cody delivered a Disaster Kick and Robinson's own Pulp Friction for a count of two.

    Commentator Kelly put over Cody's toughness, revealing The American Nightmare would need meniscus surgery after the match. The champion introduced a weight belt, whipping Robinson with it. He instigated a back-and-forth exchange that saw Robinson unload with a series of jabs.

    A big chop to the chest gave way to a second Pulp Friction. Robinson, unsatisfied, delivered a third finisher. to definitively defeat his opponent and regain the United States title.

           

    Result

    Robinson defeated Cody to win the United States Championship

           

    Grade

    C+

            

    Analysis

    Completely different than anything else on the card, this match was more of an American-style bout that leaned heavily on storytelling.

    It was clear Cody was working hurt by how much the competitors relied on low-impact spots, interference from Brandi and multiple finishers to tell their story.

    The match was not at all bad, despite what the grade may suggest in relation to the other contests on the card.

    It was hampered by injury, filled with lots of smoke and mirrors, and the result was a middling contest that accomplished what it set out to do: re-establish Robinson as champion and write Cody out of NJPW as he turns his attention to All Elite Wrestling.

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship Match: Kushida vs. Taiji Ishimori

7 of 10

    Credit: New Japan Pro-Wrestling

    IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion Kushida defended his title against Bullet Club's resident Bone Soldier, Taiji Ishimori, but first he entered the arena to an entrance straight out of Back to the Future, complete with a mini version of himself and his own Doc Brown.

    Kushida earned control early, but Ishimori slowed his momentum and trapped him in a LaBelle Lock, a la WWE champion Daniel Bryan.

    Kushida, taking advantage of a somewhat overconfident Ishimori, recovered and trapped him in an armbar. The stronger challenger powered out, but Kushida countered into a keylock.

    A series of reversals and counters culminated with the champion taking Ishimori to the mat with a nasty kick to the injured left arm of his opponent.

    Neither man could gain a sustained advantage. When Kushida keylocked the arm of Ishimori for a second time, The Bone Soldier countered into a Death Valley Driver. When Kushida delivered one small package driver and tried for a second, Ishimori fought out and delivered a jumping knee.

    With Kushida stunned, Ishimori delivered the Bloody Cross to score the win and title.

           

    Result

    Ishimori defeated Kushida to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship

              

    Grade

    B+

               

    Analysis

    This was a smartly wrestled match in which Ishimori won, but the feeling was either guy could have emerged victoriously.

    Every time Ishimori found himself in danger of being trapped in the clutches of a Kushida submission, he powered out and kept his quest for gold alive. He was persistent and used his power to plant the champion and take his title.

    The storytelling, coupled with the action, helped elevate this above other matches on the card to this point that did not have enough of one or the other.

Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White

8 of 10

    Credit: New Japan Pro-Wrestling

    Jay White betrayed Kazuchika Okada and Chaos, joining Bullet Club as its new leader. Friday, The Rainmaker sought revenge in his first Wrestle Kingdom match since 2013 without the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at stake.

    Would he be able to defeat White and attain retribution or would Switchblade score the biggest win of his career and establish himself as one of the most dangerous threats in New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

    White was accompanied by Gedo, who long seconded Okada and watched with disdain as The Rainmaker made his way to the ring. Okada revealed he returned to trunks, a fact the commentary team put over as a return to form for the celebrated athlete.

    A focused, precise and confident White targeted Okada from the opening bell and dropped the former IWGP heavyweight champion back-first on the ring apron, then whipped him into the guardrail.

    White grounded Okada back inside the squared circle, working a cravat. The Rainmaker fought back, unloading with a few forearms before absorbing an insulting slap to the face by Switchblade.

    Turnabout was fair play as Okada sent White into the barricade and followed with a big boot. Gedo attempted a sneak attack but was sent into the guardrail for good measure. In firm control, Okada delivered a bodyslam and climbed the ropes for a big elbow drop.

    White recovered and tried for Blade Runner, but Okada fought out of it. A clothesline put The Rainmaker down. White signaled to Gedo and distracted the referee long enough for a chair to be introduced into the festivities. Before he could use it, Okada delivered his trademark dropkick and tried for a Rainmaker.

    White countered and dropped Okada on his head with a beautiful suplex. White again tried for the Blade Runner, but Okada countered and delivered a tombstone.

    Counters and reversals dominated the action late as each man evaded the other's finisher until Okada delivered a discus Rainmaker. The more traditional finisher was countered into Blade Runner as White pinned Okada's shoulders to the mat for a stunning three-count.

           

    Result

    White defeated Okada

           

    Grade

    A

              

    Analysis

    "Too many minutes. Too many matches. Too much abuse."

    Don Callis attributed a two-year championship reign and the immense punishment Okada endured to his loss Friday night and that, coupled with the match we watched unfold, is a spectacular bit of storytelling for one of NJPW's cornerstones.

    Even embracing his Rainmaker persona once more and turning in a brilliant performance, Okada was unable to defeat a surging White, who is clearly being positioned as one of the future faces of NJPW, and rightfully so.

    White was equally as great here, hanging in there with one of the best wrestlers in the world and genuinely stunning the audience with the clean pinfall victory over his opponent.

    That type of reaction is hard to generate and is a testament to the star the company built in Okada and the arrogant-but-untested young challenger to his throne that White became over the last year.

    A great match capped by a memorable victory for Switchblade, this was the best thing on the card since the night's opener some two-and-a-half hours earlier.

IWGP Intercontinental Championship No DQ Match: Tetsuya Naito vs. Chris Jericho

9 of 10

    Credit: New Japan Pro-Wrestling

    Chris Jericho defeated Tetsuya Naito at Dominion in June to become the IWGP intercontinental champion. Since then, he successfully defended against Los Ingobernables' Evil but continued to incur the wrath of the charismatic and unpredictable challenger.

    Friday night, Naito attempted to repay the defeat of some seven months ago and regain his title in the process. Jericho, the master manipulator, was hellbent on retaining his title and further establishing himself one of the greatest of all time.

    Naito attacked before the bell, taking the fight to Y2J, eager to avenge the humiliating loss and sneak attacks perpetrated by The Alpha over the last year. With No Disqualifications, the fight continued on the floor, complete with a nasty piledriver onto the stage to Jericho.

    Naito dominated the opening minutes until a blind charge was answered by a kendo stick to the face, courtesy of a cerebral and opportunistic champion. Jericho unloaded on Naito, peppering him with shots to the back and neck.

    Jericho also employed a springboard dropkick, which commentator Don Callis recalled his friend using in Japan for the first time in 1993.

    The fight spilled to the commentary area, where Jericho delivered a devastating DDT that drove Naito's head straight into the broadcast table. He tossed Naito back to the arena floor like a sack of garbage, then rang the bell as if to say the match is already over.

    Jericho mocked Naito, but his overconfidence allowed the former champion to fight his way back into the match. The challenger delivered a big neckbreaker, then kicked away at the head of Y2J. He stood on Jericho's face and spit on the champion, adding insult to what was becoming more and more punishment.

    Naito escaped a Codebreaker attempt and delivered a tornado DDT.

    Jericho countered an attempt at Naito's finisher with the Liontamer/Walls of Jericho, attempting to force a tapout from his opponent. Naito fought out and recovered the kendo stick from earlier. He unloaded on Jericho, taking out a year's worth of frustration on The Alpha.

    Like a snake, the champion struck Naito with the Codebreaker but was unable to score a deciding fall. He introduced eight chairs into the match and tried to put his opponent away, but Naito answered with a DDT onto them, then leveled the champion with a Codebreaker of his own, but he could only net a two-count.

    Naito tried for Destino but Jericho countered. The champion shoved the official and delivered a low blow, followed by a Codebreaker, but Y2J could still only keep his challenger grounded for two.

    The challenger sent Jericho face-first into an exposed turnbuckle and finally executed Destino. Much to his and the crowd's shock and dismay, Y2J shot his shoulder off the mat, living to fight for a bit longer.

    Naito responded with a shot to the face with the IC title and another Destino, this time for the win.

                

    Result

    Naito defeated Jericho to win the IWGP Intercontinental Championship

                 

    Grade

    A

             

    Analysis

    Jericho has found new life late in his career by working the hardcore style in New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

    Gone is all semblance of the technician who earned rave reviews from fans in WCW and WWE; in his place is a savage, destructive, violent and unforgiving veteran superstar seeking to remain relevant in an industry that would have passed by a lesser-talented star of his advanced age.

    The 48-year-old was phenomenal here, portraying a desperate and cunning champion when on offense and selling the hell out of everything Naito sent his way.

    The nonchalant villain Naito disrespecting the championship en route to victory made complete sense and was a nice nod to his history. With that said, he was the clear fan-favorite in this one and has been for some time.

    He absorb a tremendous beating but fought through it and picked up the definitive victory most assumed would be his when the feud with Jericho started nearly a year ago.

    Excellent storytelling, hard-hitting hardcore action and a finish that fit Naito's character came together to earn this match a solid "A" rating.

IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match: Kenny Omega vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

10 of 10

    Credit: New Japan Pro-Wrestling

    Differing ideologies and intense dislike between IWGP heavyweight champion Kenny Omega and G-1 winner Hiroshi Tanahashi culminated Friday in a main event pitting two of the most recognizable stars in the industry against each other.

    Beloved veteran Tanahashi entered to a thunderous ovation for what may have been his last shot at greatness in an ever-evolving industry. Omega arrived in the same pageantry-filled entrance one would expect from the most dramatic performer in wrestling, a one-winged angel prepared for battle. He was flanked by The Young Bucks.

    An intense exchange of slaps gave way to an abdominal stretch from Tanahashi. Omega escaped and slammed his challenger to the mat. The Ace of NJPW targeted the knee, working over the champion's lower limbs. Face-to-face, the competitors again exchanged slaps, the disrespect shown at a level that made complete sense given the tone of the build.

    Firmly in control for the first time in the match, Omega played to the crowd and dropped his opponent with a backbreaker. The fight spilled to the floor, where Tanahashi cut off Omega's momentum with a dropkick. He was unable to build momentum, though, as a The Best Bout Machine sent him back-first into the ring apron and then into the crowd.

    Again mocking his opponent, Omega laughed off his actions. He delivered a moonsault from the guardrail to Tanahashi, then mocked both his challenger and the Japanese commentary team.

    Omega retrieved a table and set it up at ringside, but Tanahashi fought him off. The grizzled veteran, a student of the old school, teased putting Omega through the table but instead took the fight back to the ring. The competitors exchanged strikes until Tanahashi delivered a running forearm to the forehead.

    The champion launched himself over the ropes and wiped Tanahshi out at ringside. He held his knee, obviously worse for wear after his own high-risk maneuver. Opting to win definitively rather than accepting a countout victory, Omega rolled his opponent into the ring and delivered a missile dropkick.

    Omega delivered consecutive snap dragons suplexes and a V-Trigger. He set Tanahashi up for the One-Winged Angel but the 42-year-old countered. Omega again tweaked his knee and the champion capitalized, delivering a sickening reverse dragon screw leg whip. 

    Tanahashi delivered Twist and Shout and followed with a cloverleaf submisison. Omega tried to fight out so the Japanese delivered a Styles Clash, a call back to the fact it was Omega who threw AJ Styles out of Bullet Club. Momentum on his side, Tanahashi climbed the ropes for the High Fly Flow. He came down on the knees of Omega, blasting the air out of himself.

    On the ring apron, the competitors teased the table spot, but Tanahashi recovered and delivered the sling blade on the ring apron. He followed up with an attempt at High Fly Flow through the table but Omega moved and Tanahashi crashed through it.

    Omega double stomped Tanahashi from the second rope to the mat and followed with a powerbomb for two. Another scored another two count. A third? Yet another near-fall.

    The champion tried for another V-Trigger, but Tanahashi countered with another sling blade.

    Both men got to their feet and an exchange of strikes broke out. Tanahashi absorbed several hard slaps and answered with one of his own. 

    A High Fly Flow from Tanahashi earned him just a one-count, much to the shock of the commentary team, his finisher being the equivalent of a useless weapon at this point in the match.

    Tanahashi targeted the other knee but it was not enough to prevent another V-Trigger, which obliterated the challenger. A jumping knee from Omega and an attempt at the One-Winged Angel was countered by Ace, who delivered a reverse rana and high bridge dragon suplex for two.

    Another High Fly Flow, another two-count at the 35-minute mark.

    Tanahashi climbed the ropes but left himself open for a V-Trigger. Omega obliterated him with a dragon suplex from the top rope. With Tanahashi against the ropes, the champion delivered another V-Trigger. Tanahashi again countered the One-Winged Angel with another sling blade.

    A third High Fly Flow and there was a new IWGP heavyweight champion.

           

    Result

    Tanahashi defeated Omega to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship

            

    Grade

    A+

              

    Analysis

    The story of the grizzled veteran overcoming the odds and proving the new generation of stars have not passed him by culminated with Tanahashi standing tall, championship gold around his waist to close out this year's show.

    With so much uncertainty surrounding so many big names, it really wasn't a surprise that NJPW would opt to ride with Tanahashi rather than Omega, who could become a major factor in All Elite Wrestling or even sign with WWE. With that said, to see The Cleaner's reign come to an end after just six or so months after the long journey there is somewhat disappointing.

    If this was his last NJPW main event, Omega went out with another classic performance.

    The match was a heavweight battle in which Omega dragged Tanahashi kicking and screaming into the new era of professional wrestling, even driving him to try to use the table. It was stellar storytelling and the drama of the near-falls had fans on the edge of their seats.

    Not only did Tanahashi score his eighth title reign, he also became the first star to convert his G-1 briefcase into a title inside the Tokyo Dome.

    On a show with so many strong performances from so many excellent workers, this was the best match and another example of two outstanding wrestlers doing what they do best.