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NJPW WRESTLE KINGDOM 12 IN TOKYO DOME
Thumbs up 1392 (99.1%)
Thumbs down 0 (00.0%)
In the middle 13 (00.9%)
BEST MATCH POLL
Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho 631
Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito 448
Ospreay vs. Scurll vs. Kushida vs. Takahashi 195
Hirooki Goto vs. Minoru Suzuki 96
Kota Ibushi vs. Cody 15
Young Bucks vs. Sho & Yoh 11
WORST MATCH POLL
Never Gauntlet 447
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jay White 254
Sanada & Evil vs. Smith & Archer 104
Young Bucks vs. Sho & Yoh 18
NJPW NEW YEAR’S DASH POLL RESULTS
Thumbs up 139 (82.7%)
Thumbs down 5 (03.0%)
In the middle 24 (14.3%)
BEST MATCH POLL
Chaos vs. LIJ 10 men 97
Bucks & Omega vs. Sho & Yoh & Cheeseburger 20
WORST MATCH POLL
Opening eight man 64
Tanahashi Team vs. Suzuki-gun 21
Based on e-mail and phone calls to the Observer as through Sunday, 1/7.
Wrestle Kingdom 12, headlined by Kazuchika Okada’s retaining the IWGP title over Tetsuya Naito and Kenny Omega beating Chris Jericho in a U.S. title match was the biggest non-WWE pro wrestling event on a worldwide basis since the collapse of WCW.
The 1/4 show at the Tokyo Dome kicked off the year with what is likely to be a strong candidate for best show of the year, just as Wrestle Kingdom had won the same award in 2015 and 2016, and was a favorite to make it three in a row in 2017.
Whether the wrestling was as good as the other years is debatable, but for a number of reasons, this show was far bigger, in both attendance, market value and overall interest.
The appearance of Jericho brought a new fan base that watched new Japan for the first time, either on New Japan World, AXS TV or through other means. It wasn’t just the idea that a WWE star was facing a New Japan star in the “Alpha vs. Omega” match, but the brilliance in which the angle played out. You could have a bigger WWE star like Roman Reigns, John Cena or Brock Lesnar face a New Japan star, and it’s extremely doubtful they’d have drawn the same money just because the angles and storylines wouldn’t have been as good. It wasn’t WWE vs. New Japan that was the main draw, although it was an underlying theme. It was more a newly-reinvented Jericho and the series of angles that built to the match, combined with Omega becoming such a strong underground draw in the U.S. It was also the work of serious hard promotion.
In many ways, it was a career climax for Jericho. He’s been in tons of big shows before, headlining many PPVs in WWE. He was a key part of several WrestleManias and in the main event position in one, in 2002, with HHH, although the real main event on that show was Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock. Nevertheless, with the show billed as a double main event, Jericho did join only Ric Flair and Brock Lesnar as men who have headlined both a New Japan Tokyo Dome show (Hulk Hogan headlined an SWS show in that building and was on a few New Japan shows, but never in the main event) and a WrestleMania.
But while on the card in a good position, he was never like Dwayne Johnson or Donald Trump or even Shane McMahon, where you could show based on his match being announced, that he drew over and above WrestleMania. In reality, in a 27 year career, Jericho is well respected a top-notch wrestler and an even better promo. While he had a hot feud at one point with Shawn Michaels that boosted PPV numbers most likely, it’s hard to really pinpoint them.
He came from an era where top guy means a guy who provably drew money, like Hogan, Flair, Roddy Piper, Randy Savage, Bruno Sammartino, The Rock or Steve Austin. In most of those cases, they were the result of a combination of talent and opportunity. In this case, Jericho created his own opportunity and really all four guys in the two main events, were part of a successful mix, and all played a part.
Okada vs. Naito was the real main event for Japan, while Omega vs. Jericho was the main event for the rest of the world. In the past, the latter moniker would be nice, but would mean nothing, since Wrestle Kingdom has been a Japanese event. But the world has gotten smaller between YouTube, social media, the Internet, streaming services and New Japan getting U.S. television.
Even though Wrestle Kingdom 9 was on PPV in the U.S., its audience was limited. Based on google searches in the U.S., this year’s show had double the interest of last year’s show over the full week, and last year’s show had all the hoopla of the Omega vs. Okada match. It had nearly four times the interest of Wrestle Kingdom 9 and 10, even with all the promotion done for PPV of the former.
What’s notable is also that outside of Japan, the U.S. was only the No. 6 market in terms of per capita interest, trailing the U.K., Ireland, Puerto Rico, Australia and Canada. Canada being No. 5 was also a surprise since with Winnipeg being where Jericho grew up and where Omega lives, Canada would have been expected to be No. 1. The most searched names, in order, were Jericho, Omega, Okada, Naito, Cody Rhodes, Marty Scurll, Will Ospreay and Masahito Kakihara. In the U.S., it was Omega and Jericho tied, followed by Okada, Naito, Cody, Scurll, Ospreay, Brandi Rhodes and Kakihara.
As far as the numbers, this is the pattern for New Japan World, which is similar but much smaller than WWE Network. Last year, WrestleKingdom 11 saw the numbers increase over the week from 45,000 to 60,000. After, it dropped back to about 50,000, so most of the increase didn’t hold. It jumped back to 70,000 for the G-1 finals and hovered at that level most of the rest of the year. It was at 65,000 in December and jumped to 70,000 on 1/3 in the U.S. It was up to 82,000 a few hours before the show started, and between the show and New Year’s Dash the next day, it was at 95,000 after Dash ended and 97,000 by the next morning U.S. time. On the afternoon of 1/9,it had increased to 99,784, so it likely topped 100,000 by the end of that day. So the increase in subscribers last year for the show was 15,000 and this year was 35,000. It still pales compared to WWE numbers, but it’s amazing growth. The key is of those 35,000 newcomers, how many continue through February? Most probably won’t, but nobody was counting on most, just an increase from what was the previous long-term base.
In theory, it should have been slightly more difficult to grow this year than last because the service is a year older, but interest in New Japan is also up. It’s probably unfair to credit Jericho vs. Omega with 20,000 new subs over and above what they’d have gotten, but 15,000 is not a stretch at all, and that’s a $128,000 value alone let alone if it adds 5,000 to the base it’s worth another $484,000 for the year.
The paid attendance was 34,995, and the total in the building was between 43,000 and 44,000. The building was set up for about 45,000 and was largely full. After winning the main event, Okada actually pointed to a few sections that weren’t full and said that next year with him on top they would fill them. Takaaki Kidani said that the company goal was to build to where they could also fill the outfield seats, which were mostly blocked off by the stage.
Legitimately, it was the largest crowd for a New Japan show in 16 years, and for that matter, for any pro wrestling show that wasn’t promoted by WWE since that time.
Last year’s paid attendance was 26,192. My gut says they were going to do 30,000 this year with the increase in popularity and the Jericho vs. Omega match added about 5,000 fans. That could be a little high or low, but it’s probably not far off. If you figure that’s at a $90 average ticket price and that the average fan is spending $40 on merchandise (and my gut is the fans added by that match were spending more than that), you get $650,000. Jericho had done interviews and talked about adding $1 million in revenue to what they would have done in talking about provably drawing money, and I’d think about $1.13 million would be a fair estimate. When Brock Lesnar came back to pro wrestling, he was able to consistently move business by $750,000 on an average show, but it’s a lot easier to do that with PPV than just live tickets and a streaming service.
Of those, more than 1,000 tickets were sold in the U.S., and many other Americans and Europeans got their tickets in Japan. The estimate was about 2,400 American and European fans at the show, a number which is totally unprecedented. When I went to sold out Tokyo Dome shows in the 90s, I doubt that figure would be more than about 200.
We got 1,405 responses over three days to our poll on the show, destroying the old record of 970 set for the WWE’s ECW One Night Stand show in 2005 and more than doubling any show in the last ten years. For a comparison last year’s three biggest shows when it came to our feedback were Dominion at 580, Wrestle Kingdom at 534 and WrestleMania at 523.
The next night, at New Year’s Dash at Korakuen Hall, and later over ice cream at a restaurant after the show, they set up a series of angles for the next several months.
The key is that Jericho is coming back, as at the end of Dash, when the show appeared to be over and Naito was doing his closing promo, suddenly Jericho attacked him. The two had been going back-and-forth with Naito going off at a press conference about Jericho vs. Omega being billed as a co-main event, saying that all his life he’d worked to be in the Dome main event, that it was taken away from him in 2014 by the fans, and now he earned it and it was the one and only main event. Jericho pushed that they were the main event for Japan, but he and Omega were the main event in the rest of the world.
Because Jericho starts touring with his band “Fozzy” at the end of the month, the Jericho vs. Naito match would either take place on 3/25 in Long Beach (as he is between tours that week) or at Dominion on 6/9 in Osaka. Jericho didn’t give specifics, although those close to the situation did say it’s right now planned for Long Beach. But he did say he would be returning and would like to work a Brock Lesnar type of schedule. That’s the right thing for him, as even an A.J. Styles type of schedule wouldn’t make sense for either side. Plus his main priority for this year is Fozzy. He made it clear he’s not interested in doing the G-1 tournament and he really shouldn’t. Essentially he’s looking for big matches, and obviously Omega, Naito, Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi, the company’s big four, would be the ones that make sense. Perhaps Bryan Danielson, if he starts here toward the end of the year, would make sense but I’m not sure would have the special quality of the others since it’s been done. Really, he probably should have beaten Omega to set up a second meeting, as well as to set up a title shot at Okada.
While he’s not like Lesnar, since Lesnar’s gimmick was being real and legitimate and didn’t have Jericho’s angle, creative and promotional skills, Lesnar’s drawing power is based on needing to win almost all his matches, Jericho doesn’t have to, but he does need at least one win here and there to remain valuable at the top level and if he’s not kept at that level, there’s no point for either side. Really, he should beat Naito to set up a match with Okada, and after that there’s still a second match with Omega and a first with Tanahashi.
But in a sense, a win over Omega at the Dome would tell people he was returning and I think he wanted the Naito attack to come at a time when people thought that he was one-and-done. The money figure he got for the Dome show, Dash and the build-up was said to be about the same as what he earned in his last six months combined with WWE. And it’s really clear he loved the fact that he largely could lay out all his angles and his matches without needing to get everything, or really, barely anything approved. Jericho was friends with and former tag team partners with Gedo & Jado (they were in a trio of Gedo & Jado & Liondo) when all were starting out in the business in the early 90s with Genichiro Tenryu’s WAR promotion. In many ways, it was three guys who were kids starting out, and now nearly a quarter century later, they’re the bookers and he’s an international star coming back to work for them.
As far as Omega goes, on 1/9, he signed his new contract so it is official he’s with New Japan through January 31, 2019, so he won’t be in the Royal Rumble this year (or next year), or WrestleMania, which no doubt won’t keep people from speculating on his role in those shows daily.
As far as Okada’s retaining the title, I would have gone with Naito. Naito was the most popular wrestler and biggest merchandise seller by far. Timing is everything and this was his time.
Okada had always been planned to win. The feeling is that for the general public, Okada is the company’s superstar. When TV-Asahi did that national poll of the biggest wrestling star of all-time, Okada placed fourth, behind only Giant Baba, Antonio Inoki and Satoru Sayama, and one spot ahead of Rikidozan, since it’s a generation later. The idea is to try and make Okada into the face of the company at the level Inoki was but nobody has ever been since.
This record-setting title reign is the one that they want people to point to for a decade like a major sports domination period ala Michael Jordan in the NBA, where he had one fantastic match after another and held the title longer than anyone.
He already broke Tanahashi’s record for most time holding the IWGP title, but there are two records left. The first is most consecutive title defenses during one reign. Tanahashi’s January 4, 2011 to February 12, 2012 reign (where he lost to the “unknown” Okada at the end) saw him make 11 successful defenses. While Okada has held the title longer, they are limiting his title defenses with the idea that the less often they happen, the more important they become.
The win over Naito was No. 9. He will be next facing Seiya Sanada on 2/10 in Osaka for No. 10. My presumption is he won’t defend in Long Beach, although that is possible. More likely the record would be tied at Sakura Genesis on 4/1 at Sumo Hall in Tokyo. That would leave the record to be broken in May in Fukuoka, but it would be bigger to have that record broken at Dominion in June. There is the natural storyline of him tying the record and then facing Tanahashi to break the record, particularly since the two had a legendary rivalry. If that match takes place in May or June, the two won’t have met in a singles match since their 30:00 draw in the 2016 G-1 tournament, or nearly two years earlier.
As far as the Dome show went, the match quality was excellent. There was no Omega vs. Okada match on the show, but most matches were great, and what made the six hour and 10 minute show so easy to watch is that every match was different. Omega vs. Naito was a classic world title match between an over champion and a legit top contender where people believed the title could change hands. Jericho vs. Omega was a brawl, with juice and a lot of good psychological spots, hard blows leaving knots on both guys, and strong athleticism. Some didn’t like Tanahashi vs. Jay White for different reasons. Some felt White should have won, but that’s just not the way it’s done in Japan (Okada’s 2012 win over Tanahashi being the exception). Tanahashi’s knee was messed up but he still did all his trademark stuff. White didn’t stand out at the level hoped for but part of this was having to follow a ridiculous four-way.
The jr. title match, the last of the five title changes, saw Will Ospreay winning over champion Marty Scurll, Hiromu Takahashi and Kushida was insane. In an incredible match that would be talked about as a match of the year candidate almost any other night, Hirooki Goto beat Minoru Suzuki to win the Never Open weight title in a hair vs. hair match. After Suzuki lost, he was dragged away by the Suzuki-gun members without getting his hair cut. Before he got to the back, he recovered, pulled himself away from his teammates, and came to the ring, like he was a man of his word. He kicked away the chair Goto had for him to sit in, and instead put his own chair in the ring, and cut off much of his hair. The next day, at Dash, he showed up shaved bald.
Sanada & Evil won the IWGP heavyweight tag titles over Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr., in another excellent match, but some didn’t like it because it had to follow an excellent Kota Ibushi vs. Cody match. A lot of people saw that as the break because it was so long with the only break between matches coming after the opening Rumble.
Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii & Baretta won the gauntlet, beating champions Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa & Bad Luck Fale in the final match to win the Never Open trios championship. But that was short-lived, as Tonga & Loa & Fale regained the ping pong ball championship at Dash the next day.
The Young Bucks won the IWGP jr. tag titles from Sho & Yoh, making it their seventh win of those belts. The win breaks the record they had previously held with Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan of holding six tag team titles in New Japan.
The gauntlet match wasn’t much. It was easy to watch, but those matches are usually quick. It was okay, but nothing more. As usual, the Rumble itself was bad. They brought people in so quickly that it never slowed down, but was also never good. However, it had a great surprise finish.
The match was disappointing because people were waiting for surprises, and there were none most of the way. The first, Gino Gambino from Australia was somebody that nobody knew. With one person left to come in, the old UWF theme song played. TV announcer Kazuo Yamazaki, one of the major stars from that promotion, stood up and acted like he was taking off his jacket and shirt, when suddenly, Masahito Kakihara came out.
Kakihara’s career ended years ago due to getting cancer and he had only done one match since 2006, on a UWF reunion show last year. Kakihara was much smaller, and wore a full long-sleeve shirt. He really looked about the same size as Cheeseburger. Kakihara threw out Tenzan and then used an STO to pin Cheeseburger for the big win which was one of the real highlights of the show. After the win, they showed Yamazaki at the desk in tears and a lot of other fans were as well. Kakihara put on a Yoshihiro Takayama T-shirt and spoke about Takayama’s plight.
Besides Jericho vs. Naito, other key angles set up on the Dash show included Cody vs. Ibushi, Cody vs. Omega, Omega vs. White, Young Bucks vs. Sho & Yoh, Tanahashi vs. Minoru Suzuki, Ospreay vs. Hiromu Takahashi, Okada vs. Sanada and Goto vs. Evil. Most of those matches will be on the three New Beginnings shows, which will be 1/27 and 1/28 in Sapporo, and 2/10 in Osaka. All three shows will have English language commentary.
The exceptions are Jericho vs. Naito and Cody vs. Omega. Cody vs. Omega started when Cody attacked Ibushi after a ten-man tag match. Robinson tried to stop the attack but Cody laid him out with crossroads. Cody then grabbed a chair and went to hit Ibushi when Omega came out and pulled the chair away. The place went nuts for Omega as a babyface, really the biggest pop of the Dash show. He then tried to do an interview but the mic didn’t work. Finally he got a mic and said he was sick of The Bullet Club in-fighting and talking behind each others’ back and that they need unity. He also said to do that, he wanted to bring in a new member, White. Omega said he could see all the potential in White and White reminds him of himself in 2015. He said White was the complete package and gave him a Bullet Club T-shirt. White put on the shirt. White went to do the “too sweet” but Omega said we don’t do that anymore and they hugged. White then laid out Omega with the blade runner, which is the downward spiral.
The next day, at a press conference, White was with Okada and it was announced that White was joining Chaos. Although White didn’t get over as big as hoped for at the Dome, he did come off as a star at the press conference noting that while he was joining Chaos, his long-term goal was to work with Okada and eventually beat him.
Later, after the show at a Bullet Club celebration filmed for “Being the Elite,” Cody and Omega got into another argument and Omega walked out on the group, mad at Cody for attacking Ibushi and the Young Bucks and everyone else for not being there when White was beating him down.
Right now the plan is for the Omega vs. Cody match to take place on 4/7 in New Orleans, but I could see them also delaying that for the All In show since the date is before they can use Bryan Danielson and they need a main event of that caliber.
At the Dome, they announced most of the big shows for the first eight months of the year. Besides the New Beginnings shows, they announced the 46th anniversary show for 3/6 at the Ota Ward Gym in Tokyo, which is where that show usually takes place since that’s where New Japan’s first show was held. The New Japan Cup will be in March, a single elimination tournament with the finals on 3/21 in Niigata. Strong Style Evolved will be in Long Beach on 3/25. Sakura Generis is being moved up a week, to 4/1 at Sumo Hall in Tokyo. Most likely the main event will be the winner of the New Japan Cup facing the IWGP champion. There will be a big show called Wrestling Hinokoku in Kumamoto on 4/29. Dontaku in Fukuoka is now going to be two days, splitting up the title matches, with shows on both 5/3 and 5/4. The Best of the Super Junior tournament opens on 5/18. Dominion, which is the second biggest show of the year, takes place on 6/9 at Osaka Jo Hall. There will also be a major show called Kizuna Road on 6/15.
The G-1 Climax tournament will be from 7/14 to 8/12, so a four-week long tournament. The first two nights will be 7/14 and 7/15 at the Ota Ward Gym in Tokyo, followed by 7/16 in Sapporo. Sapporo is usually one of the biggest shows of the tournament.
The final three days will be 8/10, 8/11 and 8/12, all at Budokan Hall. Sumo Hall is being refurbished this summer, so the move to Budokan is not a sign they’ve outgrown Sumo Hall. It’s simply that Budokan Hall, which holds about 4,000 to 5,000 more fans depending on the set-up, is the only alternative in Tokyo, since the experiment of taking G-1 to a domed baseball stadium didn’t work a few years ago.
This will be the first pro wrestling event at Budokan since Kenta Kobashi’s retirement show on May 11, 2013, which set the building’s attendance record. New Japan last ran there on June 13, 2003 for a show headlined by NWF champion Takayama beating Shinsuke Nakamura, which drew 8,500 fans.
The next thing on the agenda for New Japan is the Fantastica Mania tour which starts on 1/12 in Nagoya, and continues with smaller building shows on 1/14 in Kyoto, 1/15 in Takamatsu, 1/16 in Osaka and 1/17 in Toyama.
The last three shows will air live from Korakuen Hall on New Japan World, all starting at 4:30 a.m. Eastern time.
The 1/19 show has Fuego vs. Okumura, Kojima & Dragon Lee & Star Jr. & Hirai Kawato vs. Rush & Naito & Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi, Atlantis & Mistico & Volador Jr. & Drone vs. Ultimo Guerrero & Barbaro Cavernario & Puma & Disturbio, Angel de Oro defends the CMLL middleweight title against Cuatrero, Soberano Jr. defends he Mexican national welterweight title against Sanson and Niebla Roja defends the CMLL light heavyweight title against Gran Guerrero in a rematch of last year’s CMLL anniversary show main event.
The 1/21 show has Drone & Star Jr. vs. Puma & Disturbio, Soberano Jr. & Fuego & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Okumura & Sho & Yoh, Kojima & Atlantis & Kushida & Kawato vs. Rush & Naito & Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi, the first round matches of a brothers tag team tournament with Niebla Roja & Angel de Oro vs.; Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero and Dragon Lee & Mistico vs. Sanson & Cuatrero, plus a main event of Volador Jr. vs. Cavernario for the NWA historic welterweight title.
The 1/22 show has Taguchi & Fuego vs. Puma & Disturbio, Star Jr. & Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask & Kushida vs. Okumura & Rocky Romero & Sho & Yoh, the third place match in the brothers tag team tournament, Atlantis & Kawato vs. Cavernario & Gedo, Volador Jr. & Soberano Jr. & Drone vs. Naito & Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi, Kojima vs. Rush and the brothers tag team tournament finals.
The lineups aren’t nearly as strong as usual. Usually you can count on a few super singles matches and high flying spectaculars like Volador vs. Ultimo Guerrero or Dragon Lee vs. Hiromu Takahashi or a big Mistico singles match. The closest is Volador vs Cavernario, which should be good. In addition, they are mostly resting up Tanahashi and Okada, who for whatever reason are only working the second night in Kyoto rather than the big shows. Kyoto’s main event is Mistico & Niebla Roja & Tanahashi vs. Okada & Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero. Usually you get the New Japan top guys doing Lucha Libre and having fun with it. Still, these shows are traditionally a highlight of the year because of the fun atmosphere as the CMLL guys treat it like it’s their highlight and usually go all out.
The 1/22 show will be Kawato’s last show as he’s going on excursion and starts about a week later for CMLL. Him leaving this early, at the age of 20, pretty much tells you what everyone already knows, and that’s that he’s going to be a big star.
After that comes the New Beginnings tour.
The first show is 1/27 with a 4 a.m. Eastern start time from the Hokkaido Sports Center in Sapporo. The card is Katsuya Kitamura vs. Michael Elgin, Tenzan & Kojima & Liger & Tiger Mask & Kushida vs. Takashi Iizuka & Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi & Desperado & Taka Michinoku, Ishii & Yano vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens, Tonga & Loa & Fale defend the six-man titles against Togi Makabe & Toa Henare (Henare’s new ring name) & Taguchi, Ibushi & Robinson & David Finlay vs. Cody & Hangman Page & Scurll, Ospreay & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Naito & Hiromu Takahashi, Okada & Goto & Gedo vs. Sanada & Evil & Bushi, White & Sho & Yoh vs. Young Bucks & Omega, and Tanahashi vs. Suzuki for the IC title. This is the first singles match Tanahashi and Suzuki have done since their 2012 match of the year winner.
They also run the same building on 1/28 at 1 a.m. Eastern (or 10 p.m. on the West Coast, shortly after both the UFC and Takeover Philadelphia end). That card has Kitamura vs. Robinson, Liger & Tiger Mask & Taguchi & Shota Umino vs. Kanemaru & Taichi & Desperado & Taka Michinoku, Ishii & Yano vs Yujiro Takahashi & Hikuleo (the new name for Leo Tonga), Makabe & Tenzan & Kojima & Henare vs. Fale & Tonga & Loa & Owens, Tanahashi & Elgin vs. Suzuki & Iizuka, Ibushi & Finlay & Kushida vs. Cody & Page & Scurll, Okada & Goto & Yoshi-Hashi & Ospreay & Gedo vs. Naito & Evil & Sanada & Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi, Young Bucks defend the IWGP jr. tag titles against Sho & Yoh and Omega defends the U.S. title against White.
The Young Bucks, Omega, Cody, Page and Scurll are only working the Sapporo shows. Some of them will be working the Australia tour in February which at this point Omega is not scheduled for, and they’ll likely all be on the ROH shows that haven’t been announced that are tentatively scheduled for two dates in late February at Korakuen Hall.
Three more tour shows will be on New Japan World, with 2/5 and 2/6 Korakuen Hall shows with only Japanese language broadcasts, both at 4:30 a.m. Eastern time.
2/5 has Liger & Tiger Mask & Taguchi vs. Umino & Tetsuhiro Yagi & Ren Narita, Kojima & Elgin vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Hikuleo, Kitamura vs. Tenzan, Romero & Sho & Yoh vs. Taichi & Desperado & Michinoku, Robinson & Henare vs. Ishii & Yano, Tanahashi & Makabe & Kushida vs. Suzuki & Iizuka & Kanemaru, Finlay vs. White and a 10-man elimination match main event (New Japan usually does these well)_ with Okada & Goto & Yoshi-Hashi & Ospreay & Gedo vs. Naito & Sanada & Evil & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi.
The 2/6 show has Liger & Tiger Mask & Kushida vs. Umino & Yagi & Narita, Tenzan & Elgin vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Hikuleo, Kojima vs. Kitamura, Romero & Sho & Yoh vs. Kanemaru & Desperado & Michinoku, Robinson & Finlay & Henare vs. White & Ishii & Yano, Tanahashi & Makabe & Taguchi vs. Suzuki & Iizuka & Taichi, Yoshi-Hashi & Ospreay & Gedo vs. Naito & Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi, and the main event is Evil & Sanada vs. Okada & Goto for the IWGP tag titles.
The story behind that match is that Sanada challenged Okada for the IWGP title and Evil challenged Goto for the Never title. Okada & Goto agreed to the matches if they would, in return, get a tag title match.
The other big show of the tour is 2/10 at the Edion Arena in Osaka, a show at 3 a.m. Eastern time (so late Friday night on the West Coast) with Yuji Nagata vs. Kitamura, Sho & Yoh vs. Kanemaru & Desperado, Elgin & Robinson & Finlay vs. White & Ishii & Yano, Tanahashi & Makabe & Kushida & Taguchi vs. Suzuki & Iizuka & Taichi & Michinoku, Gedo vs. Bushi, Yoshi-Hashi vs. Naito, Ospreay vs. Hiromu Takahashi for the IWGP jr. title, Goto vs. Evil for the Never title and Okada vs. Sanada for the IWGP title.
The week started with the kickoff show on 1/3 at Differ Ariake, which is a long fan festival, built around in-ring interviews with the stars of the Dome show. Everyone came out for promos except Omega and Jericho, who weren’t there. The idea is that the rest were sportsmen and could name call each other, but Omega and Jericho couldn’t be in the same ring together. They sold 1,700 tickets in a way in advance sellout. The matches, featuring people not booked for matches at the Dome, saw Tiger Mask & Narita beat Liger & Yagi in 9:28 when Tiger Mask pinned Yagi after a Tiger driver; Kojima & Kitamura beat Tenzan & Tomoyuki Oka in 9:50 when Kojima pinned Oka with a lariat and Nagata & Kawato beat Nakanishi & Umino in 11:36 when Kawato pinned Umino with an enzuigiri.
The Tokyo Dome show came next.
1. Masahito Kakihara won the Rumble in 32:05. It opened with Katsuya Kitamura vs. Bushi. Bushi got a big reaction even though fans were mostly filing in at this point. Delirious was in next, followed by Leo Tonga. A spot that made no sense saw Tonga pinning Kitamura and Bushi broke it up. Why would you break up an elimination unless it was your own teammate? People were coming in at about 1:20 apart, but it was like a WWE Rumble (except far worse) and it was really just whenever. Chase Owens was next in. Delirious was the first guy pinned and Tiger Hattori totally blew the count. He counted to two, then stopped, and then counted all over again at 6:34. Don Callis said that they needed to give Tiger an Abacus. Nakanishi threw Bushi over the top rope at 7:00. Yuji Nagata was next in. Nakanishi got Nagata in the torture rack and threw him on Tonga. Taka Michinoku was next in. Nagata & Nakanishi pinned Tonga at 8:56. Nagata then pinned Nakanishi at 9:00 and everyone jumped on Nagata and pinned him at 9:03. Owens pinned Kitamura with a package piledriver in 9:19. I know the system but they really should have used this match to push Kitamura more. The people were wanting it. Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Desperado were the next two in. Kanemaru spit the booze in Owens’ face and the Suzuki-gun guys all threw him out at 12:39. This left only Michinoku, Kanemaru and Desperado in. Jushin Liger was next in to the biggest pop of the show up to this point and he hit shote’s on everyone. Kanemaru went after Liger’s mask. Tiger Mask was next in. Gino Gambino, a stocky guy from Australia was next in. That got a pop in bars all over Australia, where the show was on at a decent hour and they actually knew who he was, unlike anyone in Tokyo. Kanemaru pinned Liger at 16:44 and Tiger Mask was thrown out seconds later. Gambino pinned Michinoku in 17:11. Toa Henare was next in. So it was Australia vs. New Zealand. Yoshi-Hashi was next in and was throwing hard chops. David Finlay was next in. Finlay gave Gambino a stunner and Henare pinned Gambino in 21:06. Yoshi-Hashi dropkicked Henare over the to in 21:28. In a big surprise, Finlay pinned Yoshi-Hashi in 21:40 even though Yoshi-Hashi’s shoudler was up. Officiating wasn’t the strong suit in this match.; Yujiro Takahashi came out with Pieter or Tokyo Latina or Muffin Ass or whatever name Fale’s girlfriend is going by this week. Callis, now that he’s running a company, was far more under control. Actually, she was more clothed than usual. Yujiro clotheslined Finlay over the top in 22:44. Cheeseburger was in next and got a big pop. Next in was Satoshi Kojima. Hiroyoshi Tenzan was next in, followed by the big surprise in Kakihara. So it was down to Yujiro, Kojima, Tenzan, Cheeseburger and Kakihara. They put over Kakihara and his legendary super fast hands, but at 45 after cancer, he did his quick slaps and the fans were no longer fast. Really he was so small, he used to have this cool physique with the wide shoulders and small waist and not was covered from head to toe. But everyone understood. Kojima pinned Yujiro with a lariat in 29:27. Kojima was killing Cheeseburger with the machine gun chops. Kojima and Tenzan ended up bumping into each other and Kakihara gave them the slaps. Kojima went after Cheeseburger, who ducked, and Kojima went over the top in31:22. Kakihara threw out Tenzan in 31:29, and then Kakihara hit the STO on Cheeseburger to win in 32:05. Kakihara did an interview thanking the fans, talking about beating cancer and then put on a Takayama T-shirt. Kakihara and Takayama were together in the old UWFI promotion where both started out. Kakihara said that some day Takayama will stand here in the Tokyo Dome ring. *1/2
2. Matt & Nick Jackson beat Sho & Yoh in 18:49 to win the IWGP jr. tag titles. Yoh used the sharpshooter in both Bucks, who had to make the ropes. Sho & Yoh did double running flip dives. Yoh started selling like he had a back injury. Nick gave him a German suplex on the apron to make it worse. Matt destroyed Rocky Romero with a running power bomb on the ramp. Romero just laid there for minutes. Matt power bombed Yoh on the apron but he kicked out of Nick’s pin. Matt went to piledrive Yoh on the floor but he backdropped out of it and Matt took a bump on the ramp. Nick hit Yoh with a springboard dropkick. Nick went for a dive but Yoh moved and Nick took out Matt. Sho finally hot tagged in and Nick was giving Sho brutal elbows. Sho gave Matt two German suplexes and then German’d Matt & Nick at the same time. Lots of big spots. Yoh had a half crab on Matt while Sho had the same move on Nick. Matt was about to tap but Nick grabbed his hand and wouldn’t let him tap. The story of the match was that Matt and Sho both were working in intense pain after getting their backs destroyed but neither would quit. It was the FU to people who say they don’t sell or use psychology in their matches. Nick came back and did a crazy dive and Matt superkicked Yoh. They did the Meltzer driver on Yoh and Nick put the sharpshooter on Yoh for the submission. Excellent match, really would be the best match on most big shows. ****
3. Zack Sabre Jr. & Takashi Iizuka & Taichi beat Michael Elgin & Ray Rowe & Hanson in 6:05. This was the beginning of the Never six man title gauntlet. It was good action. War Machine went out with a great showing. Those guys always work hard and Elgin also always works hard. Hanson really stood out here. Sabre put a triangle on Rowe and then switched to a combination armbar and heel hook on Rowe for the submission. **½
4. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano & Baretta beat Sabre Jr. & Iizuka & Taichi in :41. They had a big brawl to start. Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru were helping out Suzuki-gun. But Yano immediately gave Taichi a low blow and cradled him. 3/4*
5. Ishii & Yano & Baretta beat Togi Makabe & Juice Robinson & Ryusuke Taguchi in 3:30. It was fast paced. Robinson hit a plancha on both Ishii and Baretta. Taguchi started doing all the exaggerated Nakamura mannerisms and went for the bom a ye (Kinshasa) but Yano sidestepped him and cradled him. The finish came off great. *1/2
6. Ishii & Yano & Baretta beat Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa in 6:48 to win the Never Open weight six man titles. Loa gave Baretta a Death Valley bomb on the apron. They told the story of Ishii trying to suplex Fale, who is twice his size. This led to a big pop when he did it. Baretta came off the top with a moonsault but Tonga caught him in mid-air with the gunstun. That was great. Baretta pinned Tonga with the dudebuster. **3/4
7. Kota Ibushi beat Cody in 15:08. This was great as well. Brandi Rhodes came out as part of the act. She enhances Cody as far as coming off like a star, very much like Maryse did for Miz. Between Brandi, and the way Cody carried himself, he came across as a much bigger star than in his previous trips here. Ibushi did a pescado onto Cody and Brandi. The idea is that Ibushi knocked out Brandi with the dive and he acted like he was devastated. He picked her up as to carry her to the back. Cody sucker punched him and he dropped Brandi, with the idea Cody didn’t even care about his wife. Then Cody and Brandi started laughing like it was all planned. Cody hit Ibushi three times with chair shots and missed a fourth. Ibushi did his triangle moonsault to the floor. Ibushi did all his great moves. Ibushi tried a suplex but Brandi grabbed Ibushi’s legs to block it. Cody snapped Ibushi’s neck on the top rope. Cody did a crossroads off the apron and Ibushi’s sell job on it was fantastic, looking like he landed on his head on the floor. This led to a great count out tease. Cody did a springboard huracanrana for a near fall. Ibushi countered a crossroads by giving Cody a lawn dart spot into the corner. They traded shots. Ibushi went for the kawagoe (knee) but Cody ducked and hit a lariat. Cody missed a disaster kick and Ibushi came back with a German suplex, the kawagoe and Phoenix splash for the win. ****1/4
8. Seiya Sanada & Evil won the IWGP tag titles from Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. in 14:14. Archer & Smith came out fast doing the killer bomb on Evil. Smith slammed Sanada over the top rope to the floor. Smith & Archer were out there killing Hirai Kawato, Tomoyuki Oka and Ren Narita outside the ring. Archer choke slammed Evil off the apron onto the prelim wrestlers at ringside. Archer gave Sanada a brutal clothesline. Sanada was selling for several minutes including taking a Billy Robinson double-arm suplex from Smith. Archer gave Sanada a uranage. Evil hot tagged in. Archer did a combination Spanish fly and superplex off the top rope on Evil. Sanada and Smith did a great high spot and Smith moonsaulted him. Sanada came back and did a moonsault into a skull end. Archer choke slammed Sanada but he flipped and landed no his feet. But Archer hit the choke slam. Smith used the Nagata back suplex on Sanada and they did a version of the Hart attack on Evil. They hit the killer bomb on Sanada and he kicked out. Evil hit Everything is Evil on Archer and then they used the magic killer on Smith. Smith kicked out of the pin. Finally Sanada pinned Smith after a moonsault. The story and work here was great. Archer & Smith looked strong in losing and Sanada was selling like crazy before coming back to win. ****
9. Hirooki Goto beat Minoru Suzuki to win the Never Open weight title in a hair vs. hair match in 18:05. Suzuki, who probably had his best outing of the year aside from the Okada matches, decked Goto with a slap right away. Goto came back with a hard slap of his own. Suzuki got him in the choke several times. Goto sold like he was out, eyes rolled back, limp, and the doctor came in. This was kind of overkill because if it was real and he was out cold and the doctor was in, the match should be over. Suzuki threw the doctor out of the ring. Goto was out for too long for the match to logically continue. That’s about the only negative thing I could say about the match aside from a too brutal head-butt late. Goto came back but Suzuki laughed and wouldn’t sell. Goto would throw hard chops and Suzuki wold just kill him. Goto went for an ushigoroshi but Suzuki turned it into a guillotine and choked him again. Goto powered out. Suzuki got a choke and Goto finally hit the ushigoroshi. Taka Michinoku, Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru all came out. The key is that the rules of this match were no seconds allowed. This would have been the perfect time to Katsuyori Shibata to show up. Honestly, it would been the hottest thing on the show, but he wasn’t there. The ring boys went to stop them from interfering and Taichi came out. Yoshi-Hashi ran in. Goto nailed Taichi. Suzuki did an incredible slapping sequence on Goto. It was ridiculous. Goto was bleeding from the mouth. Suzuki went for the Gotch piledriver, but Goto got out of it and hit Suzuki with a brutal clothesline. Suzuki came back with a head-butt and top rope guillotine. Goto used an ushigoroshi off the middle rope. Suzuki hit a sick elbow, but Goto fired back. There was a double head-butt spot. Actually, one of the head-butts they did was not a good idea. It wasn’t Shibata on Okada but it was a bad klunk. Another head-butt was a lot safer. Suzuki hit one of the most amazing dropkicks you’ll ever see. Goto used a GTR to the front and then a regular GTR and got the pin. Suzuki was dragged off by his Suzuki-gun teammates and when he was near the back, it was like he recovered, and lived up to his word. He broke away, came back, kicked away the chair Goto set up, and put up his own chair. He then sat in the chair and cut off most of his hair. ****½
10. Will Ospreay won the IWGP jr. title for a second time in a four-way over champion Marty Scurll, Kushida and Hiromu Takahashi in 21:18. This was insane. Takahashi was really over. Ospreay came out all purple. Ospreay was the star of this match but Scurll and Takahashi were fantastic. Kushida is top ten in the world easy and did his part yet he ended up the most overlooked guy here. Just never ending big moves at a break-neck pace. Kushida did a flip plancha onto Takahashi and Scurll. Ospreay climbed up the lighting grid and did a moonsault off the grid onto everyone. Ospreay did a springboard missile dropkick into an armbar by Kushida. Ospreay did a moonsault but Scurll caught him in a chicken wing and Kushida broke it up with a moonsault. Ospreay did a shooting star but Scurll caught him with an uppercut and a neckbreaker for a near fall. Scurll used Ospreay’s own Oscutter on him but Takahashi saved. Scurll taped Takahashi to the barricade with duct tape so he was out of commission for several minutes. Scurll then did the broken fingers spot on Takahashi. Kushida broke Scurll’s fingers and did a flying armbar which he turned into a triangle. Scurll threw powder in Kushida’s eyes but Kushida still hit the back to the future on Scurll and Ospreay saved with a Paul Robinson special. Takahashi finally broke free to a big pop and used a sunset flip power bomb over the top rope onto Ospreay, then Scurll and hit the time bomb on Scurll. Takahashi did a tombstone on Ospreay and a missile dropkick on him, followed by a death Valley bomb on the apron on Scurll. Kushida did a sunset flip power bomb on Takahashi on the apron and Ospreay did a springboard shooting star press on Scurll and Kushida and an inverted 450 on Takahashi for a near fall. He missed the oscutter. Scurll brought in the umbrella and nailed Ospreay and Kushida in the face. But Ospreay hit the Spanish fly and Oscutter to pin Scurll, with the story being that Scurll always beats Ospreay in the big matches. ****3/4
11. Hiroshi Tanahashi beat Jay White to keep the IC title in 19:43. This match was flat to some but the first time I saw it I thought it was really good. The second time I watched it with the U.S. announcing, without having to follow the prior match, it was far better. I think the worst match voting was a combo of White not standing out the way people hoped he would, Tanahashi selling the knee so much which he had to, and really coming off the high of the previous match and very few could have followed that. Tanahashi missed a pescado and was selling his right knee, which is the bad one. White worked on it including an Indian deathlock. Tanahashi came back and worked on White’s knee starting with the dragon screw. Tanahashi even with all his injuries still did a great looking high fly flow to the floor. White did a great German suplex and Tanahashi rolled out of the ring. He did a brainbuster on the apron. They got lost here as White went to the top rope and waited for Tanahashi to get up. Tanahashi was still selling so he climbed down. White taunted him and Tanahashi decked him with a slap. White used a head-and-arm suplex, a Saito suplex and a Death Valley driver for near falls. He missed a missile dropkick and Tanahashi went back to working on White’s knee. Tanahashi did a twist and shout off the middle rope, two sling blades and crossbody off the top rope. But Tanahashi missed the high fly flow. White got him in the crucifix and was throwing elbows like Gary Goodridge in an early UFC with Paul Herrera. This was the spot he knocked Tanahashi out in an angle at the end of the year. But Tanahashi kicked out of the pin. Tanahashi came back to win with a dragon suplex, a hard slap, the high fly flow to the back and another high fly flow. Tanahashi’s nose was bleeding when this was over. ***3/4
12. Kenny Omega pinned Chris Jericho in 34:36 to retain the U.S. title in a no DQ match. Jericho came out to his own song, “Judas.” Omega came out with the Young Bucks dressed in an Osiris costume from Destiny. Jericho attacked him right away. They had a pull-apart. They went at a fast pace. Omega went for a springboard plancha over the guard rail but Jericho moved and Omega crashed through the American announcing table, taking out Don Callis. Jericho used the Walls of Jericho. He also threw down ref Red Shoes and then attacked Red Shoes’ son Shota Umino and put him in the Walls of Jericho after he’d taken out his father. He changed it to the lion tamer on Umino until Omega made the save. They brawled on the floor including Omega coming off the lighting structure with a double foot stomp onto a table on top of Jericho. Omega was bleeding from the mouth by this point. Jericho suplexed him on the floor. Jericho came back and power bombed Omega on the floor. They traded stiff shots. Omega hit the Terminator dive followed by a facebuster and a neckbreaker over the knee. Jericho escaped a snap dragon suplex and put Omega in the Walls of Jericho. Omega crawled to the corner and got the bottle of the freezing spray they use to numb an injury and sprayed it in Jericho’s eyes. Jericho came back and threw Omega’ head into a chair and Omega came up bleeding. Jericho was pounding on the cut. Omega came back with two snap dragon suplexes and a sin kick. He did another snap dragon but Jericho hit him with a brutal chair shot to the head. That wasn’t good. Omega was bleeding like crazy. Jericho kept using chair shots to the back and jabbed the chair to Omega’s throat. Omega dropkicked a chair into Jericho’s face and hit a V trigger, knocking Jericho off the ropes and through a table. Jericho was cut form the left eye. Omega used V triggers and double arm piledriver but Jericho kicked out. Jericho got the Walls of Jericho back on. At this point Jericho was cut near his butt and bleeding from the mouth as well. He turned it into a lion tamer but Omega made the ropes. Jericho decked Red Shoes again. He went for a codebreaker but Omega blocked and hit two V triggers and finally hit the One Winged Angel, but Jericho got his hand on the ropes. Omega went to the top but Jericho scooped his leg and crotched him. Jericho went for a top rope huracanrana but Omega blocked and dropped him on his head. Omega went for you can’t escape but Jericho hit the codebreaker. Jericho kept hitting him with a chair and telling him to stay down. He went for a lionsault but Omega threw the chair at him, and hit a One Winged Angel, dropping Jericho on the chair for the pin. *****
13. Kazuchika Okada pinned Tetsuya Naito in 34:26 to retain the IWGP heavyweight title. Okada came out with long pants for a change. The crowd live was more hyped for this than anything on the show. Both guys looked like they had cut weight, Okada more than Naito, knowing they had to be in their best shape for a bout like this. They had to start slow as fans were coming off a high of the finish of the prior match. Naito gained a first advantage with a neckbreaker over the guard rail outside the ring. He used a missile dropkick and spit on Okada. Okada did a sprint where he ran around three sides of the ring and kicked Naito in the face, then dropped him with a sick draping DDT. They traded moves, including Okada doing the Randy Savage elbow. Okada got the cobra clutch, and while Naito promised a counter, he couldn’t get out, but did make the ropes. Naito did a reverse huracanrana off the top rope and Gloria for a near fall. Naito then missed the stardust press. They pounded on each other with Naito beating him down and hitting a koppo kick. Okada came back with woo dropkick. Naito went for a superplex but Okada threw elbows that knocked him halfway across the ring. Okada missed a missile dropkick. Naito went to the top. Okada tried to German suplex him but Okada held onto the ropes to block it. Okada powered Naito off into a German suplex. Okada went for the rainmaker but Okada ducked and hit the flying forearm. Okada hit the rainmaker but Naito kicked out. Naito got out of a tombstone piledriver attempt. He missed an enzuigiri and Okada went back to the cobra clutch. Naito reversed and hit destino. They traded forearms with Naito getting the better of it. They were trading elbows with the story being that Okada was seemingly done and his elbows were weak. Naito spit on him and slapped him hard in the face. Naito went for a huracanrana but Okada turned it into a DDT and hit the rainmaker. He went for another one but Naito ducked and hit destino, but Okada kicked out again. Naito hit a step up enzuigiri but Okada finally hit a dropkick every bit as good as the one Suzuki threw earlier, and hit the tombstone. He went for a rainmaker, but Naito got out and hit destino again. He went for a second one, but Okada blocked it, hit a spinning tombstone piledriver and the rainmaker for the pin. After the match Gedo did a promo followed by Okada, with Okada thanking everyone for the big crowd and told the people how many were for Naito and many were for him but it was his night. He said that he and Naito will probably cross paths again at the Tokyo Dome in the main event some day. He said once again he’d make it rain, not just cash, but emotions and happiness. He pointed to the few empty spots in the building and said that his goal is to fill those spots and sell the building out. ****½
The final show was New Year’s Dash on 1/5 at Korakuen Hall before a sellout of 1,737 fans, which, due to the size of the venue, is New Japan’s toughest to get ticket of the year. Dash is all about setting up the new angles for both the next tour, and teasing stuff for later in the year.
1. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata beat Tomoyuki Oka & Ren Narita & Tetsuhiro Yagi & Shota Umino in 7:09. The young boys jumped the veterans at the bell. Nakanishi suplexed two of them at the same time, which always gets over. Oka got a lot of offense in. Big pop for an Umino German suplex on Kojima, but it ended when Kojima killed Umino with a lariat. **3/4
2. Taka Michinoku & Desperado & Takashi Iizuka & Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru beat Jushin Liger & Hirai Kawato & Toa Henare & Togi Makabe & Tiger Mask in 8:49. Suzuki-gun jumped them at the bell and Iizuka hit Henare with a chair. Taichi jammed the ring bell hammer into Henare’s eye. There was one funny spot where Iizuka went for a clothesline on Henare and expected him to duck, but he barely did. The fans were heavily into Kawato’s hot tag. Desperado pinned Kawato with the pinche loco an after the match, Iizuka laid out Kawato with the iron fingers from hell. In leaving the ring, Taichi spit alcohol all over Kevin Kelly. ***
3. Jay White pinned Katsuya Kitamura in 7:31. Both guys gave each other sick chops. White got out of the jackhammer, and got Kitamura in the crossface. He used the elbows from the crucifix position and won with the blade runner. **½
4. Young Bucks & Kenny Omega beat Sho & Yoh & Cheeseburger in 11:19. This was heavy on the comedy. Matt and Yoh were selling their backs huge, to the point they’d sell just locking up. Omega was also all wrapped up selling the Jericho match, with his head and ribs all taped up. The idea is Nick would carry the match, but then he injured his right knee early in the match. Matt and Omega didn’t want to tag in. Cheeseburger came in and hit the shote on everyone and they all sold it like it was Shawn Michaels with Hulk Hogan to the point of comedy. Nick pinned Cheeseburger with an elevated Indytaker. **3/4
5. Cody & Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens & Marty Scurll & Leo Tonga beat Kota Ibushi & Juice Robinson & David Finlay & Kushida & Ryusuke Taguchi in 13:20. Everyone on the Taguchi team was doing hip attacks. They also did a five-way dropkick on Owens but missed another one. The best action was Cody vs. Ibushi late. All the Ibushi team members missed pescado dives. Brandi Rhodes jumped on the apron as Finlay was going to come off the ropes. He held up to avoid hitting her, and Cody nailed him in the knee and made Finlay submit to the Indian deathlock. **½
Cody attacked Ibushi after the match. Robinson tried to stop him but Cody laid him out with crossroads. Tonga threw out Kushida. Cody grabbed a chair but this is where Omega came in and took the chair from him and they argued. This led to the angle where Omega called out White, and White laid out Omega.
6. Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa regained the Never Open weight six man titles beating Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano & Baretta in 14:40. Fale attacked the ring announcer before the match. Tonga then announced Fale. Yano was in a lot early and there wasn’t much to it. The crowd popped big when Ishii tagged in. It got good in the second half. Ishii built to a German suplex on Fale. Baretta used a belly-to-belly superplex on Tonga, but Tonga came back to hit the gunstun on Baretta and regain the titles. ***1/4
7. Minoru Suzuki & Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer & Zack Sabre Jr. beat Hiroshi Tanahashi & Ray Rowe & Hanson & Michael Elgin in 11:36. Sabre was great here. The focus was on Suzuki destroying the injured knee of Tanahashi. Hanson looked great at the end until Smith & Archer used the killer bomb on him and Smith pinned him. After the match, Suzuki kept working on Tanahashi’s bad knee. He hit the knee with chair shots while Suzuki-gun blocked anyone from helping. Suzuki grabbed the IC title belt. Tanahashi had to be helped to the back, limping badly. ***1/4
8. Tetsuya Naito & Evil & Seiya Sanada & Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi beat Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay & Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi & Gedo in 13:50. Fans were really hot for Okada and Naito, with Naito again the biggest favorite on the show. Ospreay and Takahashi started fast. They did the comedy spot of working on Gedo’s beard and pulling the whiskers out. Okada and Naito finally squared off 8:00 in. Okada got out of destino and Naito got out of the cobra clutch. Yoshi-Hashi power bombed Naito for a near fall, which was a big sot to set up a singles match. Takahashi superkicked Ospreay. Evil gave Goto a side slam. Okada got hit with a four-way dropkick. Naito pinned Yoshi-Hashi with destino. After the match it was setting up the next tour. Bushi laid out Gedo with the MX, which is a codebreaker off the middle rope. Takahashi laid out Ospreay with the time bomb. Evil hit Everything is Evil (STO) on Goto. Then they all attacked Okada and Sanada used the TKO and skull end to lay him out. Chaos was vanquished after Okada’s big win the night before. Naito was doing his post-match promo and just about done when Jericho showed up and attacked him. The big problem is all the LIJ guys were out of the ring and instead of helping Naito, they all stood there. The lay out was for them to run in, but I think they thought Jericho needed to get more heat on Naito first, and I get that, but in doing so, they had to stand there too long and look stupid. There should have been a secondary brawl for them to go to the back. Finally they did the pull-apart. Naito spit on Jericho and he came back and there was another pull-apart. Jericho was finally taken away. Naito sat in a chair as Jericho was being taken away and turned his back to Jericho, and dared him to come in, showing Jericho no respect. Jericho laughed at Naito for doing so, so it was like the two master of mind games one-upping each other. Other than the problem with the LIJ guys, this was really well done and great way to create buzz to end the week. ***3/4