New Japan’s biggest show of the year comes our way today (Jan. 4) from the Tokyo Dome.
Wrestle Kingdom 17 will feature eight title fights, headlined by Jay White defending the IWGP World Heavyweight championship against G1 Climax winner Kazuchika Okada. The line-up also includes a tribute to Antonio Inoki, the long-awaited showdown between Will Ospreay and Kenny Omega, WWE’s Karl Anderson defending the NEVER Openweight belt against his old Bullet Club mate Tama Tonga, AEW’s FTR putting their IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team titles on the line against World Tag League winners Bishamon, KAIRI’s first defense of the promotion’s new Women’s belt (which might be where we get the debut of a certain Boss), and much, much more.
Wrestle Kingdom 17 is available for viewing through NJPWWorld, and comes with either Japanese or English commentary. The PPV starts at 3am ET with a Kickoff show starting approximately an hour and 40 minutes before that.
Follow along here for updates, and have fun chatting in the open thread.
• Boltin Oleg vs. Ryohei Oiwa ended in a time limit draw
• SHO Great-O-Khan, Toru Yano, and Shingo Takagi advance to New Years Dash!!‘s 2023 King of Pro Wrestling trophy match
• Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima & Togi Makabe def. Tatsumi Fujinami, Tiger Mask & Minoru Suzuki in the Antonio Inoki Memorial match.
• It was announced that a movie on Inoki is in production.
• Catch 2/2 (TJP & Francesco Akira) def. CHAOS (Lio Rush & YOH) to retain the IWGP Junior Tag Team titles via pinfall.
TJP reversed Direct Drive and pinned YOH with an inside cradle. Fast-paced opener you’d expect from the super-juniors. Rush was busted open after being dropped with a tandem cutter on the steel ramp.
• CAIRO def. Tam Nakano for the IWGP Women’s championship
Nakano hit the Violent Screwdriver for two, but KAIRI kicked out at two. She hit a pair of Cutlasses and the InSane Elbow to win a quick (five minute), hard-hitting match.
• Mercedes Moné (Sasha Banks) debuted in the aftermath.
She was introduced at “The CEO” and announced as a seven-time singles champion. Her entrance music also had a money theme. She was wearing a Statue of Liberty-like crown and a Japanese flag-themed white robe, which she removed to reveal she was in her gear (with heels). KAIR held up the belt and Moné dropped her. She called for a mic and delivered a promo introducing herself and setting up a match at Battle in the Valley in San Jose on Feb. 18. Video and more here.
• Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) def. FTR (Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler) to win the IWGP Tag Team titles.
Really good, hard-hitting match that marks the end of FTR’s belt collector phase, and maybe their international one, as well. FTR were able to hit Big Rig on Goto, but couldn’t get three before YH broke up the pin. Harwood took the fall after Bishamon hit their tandem GYR finisher. More here.
• Zack Saber Jr. def. Ren Narita via submission to become the first IWGP World Television champion
All TV title matches will have a 15 minute time limit. This one didn’t get that far, but they wrestled like they were on the clock. ZSJ got the advantage in technical exchanges, which Narita would come back from with emotion. At the end of one of those rallies he got trapped in an armbar he couldn’t get out of.
Afterwards, Shane Haste & Mikey Nicholls came out and offered the Suzuki-gun alum on their team. Saber joined them by putting on a TMDK shirt.
• Tonga boy def. Karl Anderson to win the NEVER Openweight title
Machine Gun was not accompanied by any of his fellow WWE Superstars. He cheapshot Tama with the belt before the bell, and worked the heat against his old Bullet Club teammate in and out of the ring, but he couldn’t put Tonga away. Both men were desperate to hit Gun Stun, and Tama finally hit one off the middle rope. He followed up with another (which didn’t land clean) to win it. More here.
• Keiji Muto, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Shota Umino def. Tetsuya Naito, Sanada & Bushi
This is Muto’s last NJPW match. A fun trios match designed to (a) give the commentary team a chance to talk about Muto’s connections to the other men in the ring, and (b) to put over Umino. The latter was accomplished when Muto let him pin Bushi after he hit him with the Shining Wizard. Shooter and Naito had a tense moment as the victors exited.
• Hiromu Takahashi def. Taiji Ishimori, El Desperado & Master Wato in the IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship
Ishimori carried the belt into this 4way, which was just as crazy as you’d imagine a 4way super-junior match to be on this stage. Dives and other high spots cleared things out so mini-singles matches could happen in the ring. Hiromu and Desperado traded finishers for nearfalls. Wato tried to pick up the win in the aftermath of that exchange, and got two with his own Recientemente, but Takahashi nailed him with Time Bomb 2 to win the title.
• During the Juniors match, we were told that Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Kongo faction confronted Los Ingobernables de Japon backstage while LIJ was talking to the press about the Mutoh match.
• Kenny Omega def. Will Ospreay to win the IWGP US Heavyweight title
Big entrances for both men for the first of our two main events. United Empire enters with the champ. Don Callis is here with his guy, and sits in on English-language commentary. Omega only being 80% healthy is as big a talking point as the passing of the torch storyline. Callis is confident Kenny will win anyway because Ospreay is dumb. Both men took big table spots in the opening third.
Ospreay is busted open on the floor, and UE and Callis jaw as officials check on Will. Kenny bashes his opponent’s bloody head through one of the broken tables, and waves off Red Shoes while lighting him up with open-hand strikes. V-Trigger connects, but Will gets a foot on the ropes as Don changes his tunes about Ospreay’s mental fortitude. The champ creates an opening when he stumbles into the ropes and crotches Omega, but The Cleaner sends him crashing jaw first into a turnbuckle. Multiple V Triggers and a superplex follow, but Will won’t stay down. Kenny’s screaming at him to stay down as he goes for another knee, but Ospreay catches it and mounts another comeback around the 30 minute mark.
Chelsea Kiss, two Hidden Blades and a Super Os-cutter, but Omega won’t stay down. They both go for their finishers but can’t connect, and Will hits Styles Clash! Nearfall, elbow pad off, Hidden Blade! That only gets two. Ospreay drags him to the middle of the ring to try for Stormbreaker, but Kenny slips free for yet another V Trigger that puts both men down. Omega has wrist control as they pull themselves to their feet for an exchange of forearms. Bridging straight-jacket German suplex gets two. Another knee (this one a kamagoye), Ospreay defiantly spits blood at his rival, then takes One Winged Angel.
• Kazuchika Okada def. Jay White to win the IWGP World Heavyweight championship
Video package before the entrances. Gedo is here with Switchblade. Rocky Romero joins commentary, and compares White to Triple H. Tanahashi is now at the Japanese announce desk with legends like Masahiro Chono, Jushin Liger & others, and Jay taunts him before the bell, too.
Mostly Switchblade in the early going, with body shots leaving the G1 winner gasping for breath. He hits a dropkick to knock White off the top. Gedo tries to get involved, and both heels get DDT-ed on the ramp. They trade strikes in the ring, then Okada hits a tombstone & clothesline to set-up Money Clip. White escapes, and Gedo thwarts a dive, so both men get senton-ed.
The challenger was in control for a stretch, fighting off a comeback that included a sleeper suplex by countering a Sling Blade into a German. The two men exchanged finishers for a while, with neither man getting three. Okada eventually nailed White with his own Blade Runner to set-up the Rainmaker that won the night.
More on both main events here.
• After the bell, White initially refuses to give the belt to Red Shoes. He eventually does, as Okada gets strapped as Jay crawls to his feet. He pulls himself up and they share a look before Switchblade rolls out and Gedo helps him to the back. Kevin Kelly talks about Okada and Inoki’s legacies when Shingo Takagi rolls into the ring with a microphone. He congratulates the champ and talks about their main event at Wrestle Kingdom 16, then touts his accolades since lobbying for a shot at the belt. Chris Carlton is confused on what date Shingo said, but we’ll find out soon enough.
Okada tells him to scram. He puts over his accomplishment, NJPW’s 50th anniversary, thanks the fans, and tears up asking Inoki what he thought of the fights tonight. He knows Inoki will be watching New Japan’s next 50 years from heaven. He’ll continue being champ, and making it rain.
Since they can cheer again, Okada leads the Tokyo Dome in a cheer for Inoki from the stage to close the show.