King of Pro Wrestling is here, the annual show where we get an idea of what’s going down at the Tokyo Dome at 1/4. AJ Styles looks to keep his title against Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Tetsuya Naito looks to gain the #1 contendership that Okada has. A lot is on the line tonight here at Sumo Hall, which is sold out for the first time since 1995, barring G1 shows. I have a feeling the main event here will be better than the one that closed out the other show in Japan that took place earlier this afternoon. Just a hunch. Oh, and everyone here is actually, you know, the champions. That’s kind of nice. Anyway, let’s get going!
Tama Tonga, Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows and Bad Luck Fale vs. Tomoaki Honma, Kota Ibushi, Togi Makabe and Yuji Nagata. Starts off with a huge brawl between the two teams. The tag champs try to go for their finish early on Nagata, but he frees himself. Nagata puts the armbar on Anderson but Gallows cuts him off, only for Nagata to send him reeling. Honma is tagged in and goes for the kokeshi headbutt, but Anderson moves out of the way. Fale is tagged in and lands some offense, including a HUGE lariat. Fale misses a splash as Makabe is tagged in. Ibushi and Tama Tonga are tagged in and Ibushi goes wild, including hitting an amazing moonsault off the middle rope to the floor on Bullet Club members. He eventually gets the win out of nowhere with the phoenix splash. It was an opener. **½
NWA Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Chase Owens © vs. Bushi. Bruce Tharpe, who is now sporting a pair of glasses that match his fantastic jacket, introduces Owens to the ring. Owens immediately jumps him at the bell. Owens goes on the outside but Bushi responds with a big suicide dive through the ropes. Owens eventually gains control and works over Bushi, including putting him on his shoulders and hitting a codebreaker for a nearfall. Bushi cuts him off and starts getting some offense in and goes for the codebreaker off the top but Owens dodge, puts him back on the top rope and hits a draping cutter from the top rope for a nearfall. Swinging slingshot backbreaker followed by a package piledriver secures it. Pretty good showcase for Owens, he looked good here on his debut. Bushi was good too. **3/4
Bruce Tharpe is back on the microphone. He says Bushi isn’t enough of a challenge. They want Jushin Liger. Liger indeed comes out decked in a suit. I mean, I’ve seen masked guys in suits all the time in pro wrestling, but this was still weird to see. He tells Tharpe to SHUT UP. He also says Owens is strong, but he is very strong. I guess that’s a yes. This was fun.
NWA Tag Team Championship: Tencozy © vs. Killer Elite Squad. I read this is the 11th time they’ve done this on PPV. I’m kind of used to seeing a bunch of rematches at this point. After all I review Raw every Monday ONLY here on Voices of Wrestling. DBS and Tenzan started off, then Kojima and Archer. Long vertical suplex by Archer. He does the rope walk sledge a la Undertaker for another pinfall attempt. Kojima finally breaks free with a DDT and tags in Tenzan as these two go at it again. Archer is tagged in then does the mongolian chops to boos. Kojima is tagged back in and starts his offense. He hits the chops and the elbow. Tenzan assists with the lariat but Kojima hits him instead. KES double teams him and goes for this finish but Kojima eliminates DBS. He scores a nearfall on Archer, and as he goes for the lariat Archer grabs him in the full nelson position, DBS comes back and they hit the killer bomb on Kojima for the pinfall and win the titles. Good match. ***
After the match, Kojima and Tenzan shove one another, with Tenzan being the instigator, probably due to the lariat. They leave separately.
Minoru Suzuki and Takashi Iizuka vs. Kazushi Sakuraba and Toru Yano. Ok, there is a difference between this match and the previous match. They both have had 1,000 matches against one another. The difference between the two, however, is that the previous match was between two pretty fun teams. These two teams are not fun. They are the opposite of fun. Nogami freaked out as Iizuka walked around the ring like a crazy man. Suzuki and Sakuraba start things off. They do their usual grappling. Sakuraba manages to get an armbar in but it’s broken up rather quickly. Sakuraba works the arm and as they go to the corner Sakuraba starts SLAPPING AND STOMPING HIM. That was cool. Unfortunately, Yano is tagged in. Iizuka follows. Suzuki has Sakuraba in a kimura on the outside as Yano undoes the turnbuckle. Iizuka flies into it. Another whiplash into the turnbuckle. Yano grabs the ref and this distracts him long enough to low blow him and roll him up for the pinfall. It was short. **
Sakuraba has Suzuki locked in what looks like the gogoplata as ring attendants pull them apart…but not for long as Suzuki strikes back with a sleeper. These two are doing something at the Tokyo Dome. Rumor is this will involve, of all people. Wanderlei Silva tagging with Sakuraba. Yes. I kind of have to see this if true. Suzuki destroys ring attendants after being pulled apart for good.
IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championship: Timesplitters © vs. Forever Hooligans vs. The Young Bucks. Timesplitters control early against Matt Jackson. He eventually tags in Romero. Huge knee off the apron onto Shelley on the barricade by Romero. Kozlov and Romero work over Shelley. The Young Bucks tag themselves in as Kozlov is doing his hat dance and lay waste to everyone. Forever Hooligans tag themselves in as Shelley hits a DDT and STO combo. Young Bucks are back in. Bodies everywhere. Kushida flies off with a huge crossbody onto a bunch of bodies on the floor. Young Bucks were setting up for something but Forever Hooligans come back in and work over Matt. Doomsday device on Matt gets a nearfall. So many double team moves on the outside I can’t even name them all. Matt hits a moonsault off the top rope on the Hooligans but mostly just catches his brother. Young Bucks clear everyone out and focus on Kozlov. Buckle bomb. Spike tombstone but everyone breaks it up. Mode bodies flying everywhere. Kushida eventually gets a bridging pin on Kozlov for the victory. This was an insane match with tons of awesome high spots. ****¼
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Ryusuke Taguchi © vs. Desperado. Taichi and Taka second Desperado and distract the ref long enough for Desperado to hit Taguchi with the title belt. Taichi and Taka work him over on the outside as there’s more distracting from Desperado. He’s in control, including slapping Taguchi on the butt, until Taguchi fights back with a dropkick. he then rams his butt onto Desperado’s head in a measure of revenge, I guess. Huge swanton off the ring onto the floor by Taguchi. Indian deathlock bridge by Taguchi for a nearfall. Taguchi goes for the ankle lock but Desperado gets to the ropes. Desperado fires back with a vertebreaker variation for a nearfall. Taichi goes to the top rope to interfere, but Taguchi pushes Desperado into the ropes causing Taichi to fly to the outside. Taguchi hits the dodon then locks in the ankle lock for the win. Pretty good, but not as good as other IWGP Jr. title matches. ***1/2
Taichi and Taka jump Taguchi after. Taichi poses with the belt, I guess challenging Taguchi. That’s a ticket seller.
NEVER Championship: Yujiro Takahashi © vs. Tomohiro Ishii. Yujiro is in control to start. Ishii gets a barricade shot in but Yujiro soon gains control again. There is someone in the front row wearing a nWo shirt over a sports jacket. That was more interesting than Yujiro’s offense. Ishii finally hits a huge release overhead suplex for some momentum. Yujiro cuts him off and hits a buckle bomb. Yujiro starts unleashing some elbows but Ishii no sells them. Huge superplex follows but Yujiro gets his shoulder up. Big lariat by Ishii. Powerbomb but no dice. Yujiro tries to cheat by grabbing a ref and going for a low blow, but Ishii catches him only for Yujiro to lariat him. Elbow exchange follows. Yujiro hits the olympic slam but Ishii kicks out. Tokyo pimps attempt but Ishii counters with a back body drop. Yujiro hits a huge elbow shot then follows with the Tokyo Pimps…for a nearfall. Wow. Another buckle bomb, this time hitting the top rope. Ishii blocks the Miami Shine and hits a buckle bomb of his own. Both men are down. They get back up and exchange moves. Sliding D by Ishii. Lariat, but still Yujiro kicks out at two. Brainbuster does it, Ishii regains the NEVER championship. The first part of this was dull, but man did it pick up. Great match. ****½
Katsuyori Shibata and Hirooki Goto vs.Yoshi Hashi and Shinsuke Nakamura. Shibata and Nakamura start things off. I’m sensing the IC title program for the Tokyo Dome becoming more clear. They go at it for a bit before tagging in their respective partners. Goto manages to lock in a boston crab as Shibata isolates Nakamura from making the save. Hashi eventually gains free. Tag back to Shibata and Nakamura, who gains control of the bout for a bit until Shibata unleashes a huge overhead German. Running dropkick to the corner by Shibata. Both teams work over one another as Hashi and Shibata are in the ring, hitting a powerbomb followed by a bridge for a nearfall. Fans were very into Yoshi-Hashi’s nearfalls. Shibata nails him with a dropkick and nails the penalty kick for the pinfall. This was good, but not a standout bout or anything. ***¼
Shibata and Nakamura had a staredown after the match. Shibata shoves him and leaves. Nakamura gets on the mic after, and I’m assuming he issues a challenge out to Shibata.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito. The winner here is the #1 contender for the IWGP title at the Tokyo Dome. I think Okada went back to dyeing the eyebrows. Doesn’t work for him, honestly. Naito slaps him after a clean break so he’s working as a heel here. Okada feigns some sort of injury. Okada sold it like he was legit hurt. Naito works him over. Okada springs back to life and dropkicks Naito off the top rope and sends him scrambling to the floor. Okada follows it up with a draping ddt off the barricade. DVD into a brainbuster by Okada for a nearfall. He tries for the rainmaker, but Naito comes back and starts mounting some offense after blocking it. He hits Gloria and goes for the stardust press but Okada rolls out of the way. Naito counters with a dragon suplex, but it still isn’t enough. Okada with a HUGE dropkick to the back of the head. Tombstone by Okada. Rainmaker attempt, but Naito keeps squirming out of the way until Okada latches on to him, hits a German suplex and follows with the rainmaker for the pinfall. Very good stuff, though I think their last match was better. ****¼
IWGP Heavyweight Championship: AJ Styles © vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi. Jeff Jarrett is seconding Styles with the guitar. I hope the finish isn’t this obvious, at least. They start with some back and forth chain wrestling. Tanahashi misses a plancha but ends up grabbing AJ as he slides out of the ring and shoves him into the barricade. They do the spot where AJ jumps over the guardrail then launches off with a punch, but Tanahashi grabs him instead and hits a huge belly to belly. They go back into the ring where AJ drops him with, well, a dropkick. Tanahashi cuts him off with an axe handle and follows with a swanton for a nearfall. He follows that with the high fly flow off the top rope to the floor. AJ cuts him off when going for the high fly flow again and tries for the Styles Clash but AJ escapes. AJ goes for his quick offense but Tanahashi grabs him from behind and hits a German. Slingblade, but AJ counters and hits a facebuster variation for a two count. Tanahashi fight back with a dragon suplex, follows that with two high fly flows…then Jarrett pulls the referee out of the ring. This distracts Tanahashi long enough for AJ to hit the pele kick and bloody Sunday DDT for a nearfall. AJ shoves Tanahashi right into the ref’s gonads. Oh look, Jarrett with the guitar. But suddenly NAOFUMI YAMAMOTO, aka YOSHI TATSU RUNS IN AND CHASES JEFF JARRETT AWAY. Yes. That happened. Back and forth between the two until AJ low blows him and hits the hollow point tombstone. 450 attempt, but Tanahashi gets the legs up. High fly flow, but AJ gets the legs up. AJ grabs him from the top rope and tries for the Styles Clash but Tanahashi throws him off and hits two more high fly flows to win the IWGP title for the seventh time, the most in New Japan’s history. Yep. Well, I didn’t see that coming, and it doesn’t make sense at all considering the story they’ve been building up, but hey this was a dramatic, fun match. ****¼
Okada came to the ring after the match. They talked for a bit, I guess hyping their match at the Toyko Dome. They posed to the audience to see who got the bigger response. Tanahashi won. Okada then left as Hiroshi Tanahashi played air guitar to close out the show.
Great show. Everything delivered in ring wise, the NEVER title match was awesome and the main event was fun with all the twists and turns. I’m very surprised Hiroshi Tanahashi won the title, though. I thought this whole time they were building towards AJ and Okada to headline the Tokyo Dome after months of the Bullet Club being dominating heels and winning all these titles. But I guess plans changed. Or that was never the plan at all, I dunno. In fact, this was a pretty terrible night for the BC as they lost both singles titles and lost the opener. We’ll see where they go from here, I guess. Tanahashi/Okada has never failed to be an awesome match, so we’ll see if they can top their match from Invasion Attack last year. I don’t think they will, but they’ll be close.
Oh, and people were saved from Tanahashi/Jarrett thanks to Yoshi Tatsu of all people. Who would’ve thought such a thing. At least I don’t have to hear the whining regarding that match taking place!