By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “Wrestle Kingdom 17”
January 4, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan at the Tokyo Dome
Broadcast live on New Japan World
NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 17 Pre-Show
The English broadcast team was Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton, and Gino Gambino…
1. Ryohei Oiwa fought Boltin Oleg to a draw in a three-minute exhibition match. Oiwa caught Oleg in an armbar, but Oleg reached the ropes. Oleg came back with a hip-toss and a bodyslam and covered Oiwa for a two count before the bell rang to end the exhibition match.
2. New Japan Rambo. Kelly said the final four wrestlers would meet in a four-way the next night at New Year Dash for the King of Pro Wrestling Title. Sho and Hikuleo started the match. The other entrants were Evil, Tomohiro Ishii, Great-O-Khan, Douki, Rocky Romero, Kenta, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Aaron Henare, Ryusuke Taguchi, Jeff Cobb, Shane Haste, Mikey Nicholls, Yujiro Takahashi, Toru Yano, El Phantasmo, Taichi, and Shingo Takagi.
Shingo Takagi, Sho, Toru Yano, and Great-O-Khan were the final four.
Powell’s POV: What a shit show. There was plenty of comedy and some of it worked, but there were no surprises and it was frustrating to see some talented wrestlers stuck in this silly match rather than getting a real match on the main card. It looks like that’s it for the pre-show, so I’ll pick up the coverage once the show resumes. Oh, wait, they’re back with the Inoki match following an odd delay. Wait, they’re back with the Inoki match following an odd delay. By the way, it sucks this event isn’t available on FITE.TV. The only real positive is that unlike FITE, New Japan World seems to be taking a “f— music licensing” approach. By the way, how in the hell is New Japan World still not available via Roku? Yes, it’s late and I’m grumpy. Anyway, back to the show.
3. Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima, and Togi Makabe vs. Minoru Suzuki, Tiger Mask, and Tatsumi Fujinami in the Antonio Inoki Memorial six-man tag match. Tiger Hattori was the referee. Suzuiki got a nice pop when he tagged in for the first time. He traded slaps with Nagata and then they moved on to trading elbow strikes. Nagata performed a nice suplex. Fujinami also received a good reaction and performed dragon screw leg whips, which got a rise out of the crowd. In the end, Makabe pinned Tiger Mask.
Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima, and Togi Makabe defeated Minoru Suzuki, Tiger Mask, and Tatsumi Fujinami in the Antonio Inoki Memorial six-man tag match.
The wrestlers shook hands afterward. Yes, even Suzuki. Fujinami spoke over the house mic in Japanese and fired them up with what seemed to be an Inoki cheer.
Powell’s POV: This was fun with a nice mix of talent from NJPW’s past and present. It wasn’t enough to change my opinion that 99 percent of all pro wrestling pre-shows suck regardless of which country they are held in. Bring on the main card! It begins at the top of the hour. By the way, I missed the announcement that a movie on Antonio Inoki is in the works.
NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 17 Main Card
The main card opened with a video package that listed each of the matches… Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton, and Gino Gambino remained on commentary…
Powell’s POV: While the stage isn’t as massive as what WWE has used for modern era WrestleMania events, it still looks big time and terrific. As you can tell from the pre-show, I’m going with stripped down coverage for this event. It’s late, I’m behind on NJPW, and it’s nice to sit back and enjoy the show. I’m going light on the actual match coverage, but I’ll still be offering my thoughts after each match.
1. Francesco Akira and TJP vs. Lio Rush and Yoh for the IWGP Jr. Hvt. Tag Team Titles. Kelly said Akira is the first Italian to ever compete at a Wrestle Kingdom event. The champions hit Rush with an popup facebuster double team move on the stage and he came up bleeding heavily around his right eye. In the end, Yoh set up for a move on TJP, who countered into an inside cradle and got the three count…
Francesco Akira and TJP defeated Lio Rush and Yoh for the IWGP Jr. Hvt. Tag Team Titles.
Powell’s POV: A good tag team opener. There were some strong near falls the dazzling high spots that one would expect from these guys. Kelly was good about playing up the possibility that the challengers may have won had it not been for the cut that Rush suffered.
2. Kairi vs. Tam Nakano for the IWGP Women’s Championship. Kairi had a couple of people dressed in Grim Reaper style costumes as part of her entrance (you’re going to be so pissed if one was Sasha Banks and that’s her only appearance tonight). Kairi hit her top rope elbow drop and scored the clean pin.
Kairi defeated Tam Nakano to retain the IWGP Women’s Championship.
After the match, the lights went out and a video led to Mercedes Mone (f/k/a Sasha Banks) making her entrance. Once in the ring, Kairi and Mone went face to face and shook hands. Mone put Kairi down with a move. Mone introduced herself and announced that she will challenge Kairi for the title on February 18 in San Jose.
Powell’s POV: A good match that was overshadowed by the anything but surprising debut of Mercedes Mone. The internet would have exploded had word of Mone’s appearance not leaked, but it really became common knowledge. Mone debuted a cool new look and seemed like she’s really trying to be something new rather than just being Sasha Banks with a new name. The Japanese fans are never the most boisterous bunch, so it came off a little flat, but I have a feeling that won’t be an issue in San Jose. By the way, for those who don’t follow the Japanese product, Kairi worked as Kairi Sane in WWE.
3. “FTR” Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler vs. Yoshi-Hashi and Hirooki Goto for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles. Goto had some minor bleeding from the mouth early in the match from what appeared to be a split lip. FTR hit the Big Rig on Goto and Harwood had him pinned, but Yoshi-Hashi broke it up. A short time later, Yoshi-Hashi tagged in. Harwood performed a piledriver for a two count. FTR followed up with a spike piledriver and Harwood had the pin, but Goto broke it up. The challengers came back with a double team version of GTR on Harwood, which led to Yoshi-Hashi scoring the pin…
Yoshi-Hashi and Hirooki Goto defeated “FTR” Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler to win the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles.
Powell’s POV: This match was underwhelming on paper. FTR have been involved in some legitimate dream tag team matches, but I don’t know how many people actually saw Yoshi-Hashi and Hirooki Goto as dream opponents. NJPW did what was best for their booking plans and this was a well worked match. It wasn’t as grandiose as I hoped an FTR match at Wrestle Kingdom would be, but it was still entertaining. FTR are now without titles after dropping the ROH, AAA, and IWGP tag team titles in less than a month.
4. Ren Narita vs. Zack Sabre Jr. to become the first NJPW TV Champion. The wrestlers traded kicks, forearms, rolling elbows, and suplexes at various points. Sabre scored a very close near fall. Sabre eventually caught Narita in an arm submission and got the win.
Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Ren Narita to become the first NJPW TV Champion.
Sabre was presented with the new title belt after the match. The TMDK duo of Mikey Nicholls and Shane Haste entered the ring and applauded, then offered Sabre a TMDK t-shirt. Sabre put the belt down and took the t-shirt. Sabre put the t-shirt on and then hugged both men, and then they strapped the title belt around his waist…
Powell’s POV: This stood out to me as a sleeper match and it delivered. It was the most physical match of the night thus far and was unique compared to the other matches. I’m a big fan of Sabre’s style and his critics can no longer complain about his thin frame due to the weight that he’s added over years. With Jonah returning to WWE as Bronson Reed, it looks like his spot in TMDK has been filled by Sabre. Meanwhile, Narita has come a long way from the young lion days and is really coming into his own.
5. Karl Anderson vs. Tama Tonga (w/Jado) for the Never Openweight Championship. When the wrestlers met in the middle of the ring, Anderson hit Tonga with the title belt. Anderson followed up with a neckbreaker over the ringside barricade. Anderson put Tonga down with another move on the long entrance ramp, which drew gasps from the crowd. Anderson went for a Gun Stun on the ramp, but Tonga shoved him off. Both men ended up fighting on the apron.
Anderson stuffed a Gun Stun and then dropped Tonga with a kick. Later, Anderson called for a brainbuster from the top rope, which Tonga stuffed. Tonga shoved Anderson off the ropes and hit him with a crossbody block. Tonga followed up with a top rope splash for a near fall. Anderson stuffed a Gun Stun, then Tonga did the same. Tonga eventually leapt off the middle rope and hit a cutter. Tonga followed up with rough looking Gun Stun and scored the pin…
Tama Tonga defeated Karl Anderson to win the Never Openweight Championship.
Powell’s POV: There was no mystery regarding the outcome due to Anderson now working for WWE, but they did their best by having him dominate the bulk of the offense. It worked and I enjoyed the match. It’s just a shame that they spent all that time building to the Gun Stun finish and it ending up looking bad.
6. Keiji Muto, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Shota Umino vs. Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, and Bushi. This is final NJPW match for Muto (a/k/a Great Muta), who is working his retirement tour. Muto pushed his teammates back into the corner to indicate that he wanted to start the match. Sanada did the same with his partners. Sanada took a cheap shot and went on the offensive. Sanada even hit a top rope moonsault for a close near fall during the opening minute. Muto came back with a shining wizard and went up top, but Tanahashi talked him out of performing his moonsault. Funny. Later, Muto hit a shining wizard on Bushi, and then Umino ended up pinning him…
Keiji Muto, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Shota Umino defeated Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, and Bushi.
Powell’s POV: Kelly nailed it when he said Muto, Tanahashi, and Umino’s team name could be Past, Present, and Future. It was really cool to see those three team together even though the actual match was nothing special from a quality standpoint. It was painful just to watch Muto walk to the back, but he had a nice sendoff. I’m surprised there wasn’t a little more fanfare for him afterward. Now let’s just hope Muto doesn’t say anything regrettable during this post show press conference. The broadcast team raved about Umino’s future and it’s easy to see why. I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t end up headlining Wrestle Kingdom someday.
7. Taiji Ishimori vs. Hiromu Takahashi vs. El Desperado vs. Master Wato in a four-way for the IWGP Jr. Hvt. Championship. Charlton said Desperado wants to take the belt on a world tour if he wins it. Takahashi offered Desperado an early handshake, but Desperado hooked him into a pin for a two count. Ishimori left the ring and laid down on the ramp. All three of his opponents went after him, but he ended up leaving them all lying on the ramp. Ishimori returned to the ring and the others had to beat the ref’s count, meaning count-outs are in play in NJPW four-ways.
Later, Takahashi performed a senton dive off the top rope onto all three opponents on the floor. Wato had a nice flurry of offense on Ishimori back inside the ring, but Desperado cut off his top rope move. Takahashi was on bottom of a tower of doom spot and nearly scored the pin. Desperado blasted Takahashi with shots to the face. Takahashi came back with a Time Bomb for a near fall. Wato took out Takahashi and then had Desperado pinned, but Ishimori pulled the referee out of the ring. Ishimori hit Wato with a chair while the referee was down. Wato picked up a couple of excellent near falls, but Takahashi put him away with the Time Bomb 2.
Hiromu Takahashi defeated Master Wato, Taiji Ishimori, and El Desperado in a four-way to win the IWGP Jr. Hvt. Championship.
Powell’s POV: A really good four-way match. They told a good story with Wato coming very close to winning the championship only to take the pinfall loss. I haven’t seen much of Wato and I’m already interested in seeing him continue to pursue the championship. As fun as that match was, it’s time for the big two.
8. Will Ospreay vs. Kenny Omega for the IWGP U.S Championship. Omega had a cool entrance and was introduced as being from AEW. Ospreay also had an elaborate entrance and was accompanied by members of the United Empire faction. Omega was accompanied by Don Callis, who sat in on commentary with the English crew. Ospreay went on the offensive to start, but Omega shoved him off the apron and he crashed back first into the ringside guardrail. Omega removed a turnbuckle pad and sent Ospreay into it and then continued to target his back.
Ospreay came back with a cutter. He remained on the offensive for a bit while continuing to sell back pain. Both men ended up on the apron and traded chops. Ospreay went for an OsCutter from the ropes, but Omega held onto the ropes, causing Ospreay to crash and burn on the apron. At ringside, Omega pulled a table out from underneath the ring and slammed it onto Ospreay’s back. Omega left the table on Ospreay’s back, went back to the apron, and double stomped the table, which his feet crashed through.
Ospreay came back by suplexing Omega onto the bottom side of the broken table. Ospreay went up top and performed a corkscrew moonsault onto Omega on the floor. Back in the ring, Omega stuffed an OsCutter. Omega performed a V-Trigger to the back of Ospreay and then put him down with a Poison Rana. Omega picked up a near fall moments later. Omega placed Ospreay in a seated position on the ropes so that he was facing the ring post. Omega went for a dragon suplex, but Ospreay landed on his feet. Ospreay hit an OsCutter for a near fall. Ospreay hit Omega with a series of kicks in the corner.
With both men standing on the ropes, Omega DDT’d Ospreay on the exposed turnbuckle. Ospreay rolled to the floor and came up bleeding heavily. Omega performed a running flip dive over the top rope onto Ospreay on the floor. Omega slammed Ospreay’s head onto the broken table multiple times. Omega continued to dominate the action inside the ring until he went up top and Ospreay bounced into the ropes, which crotched Omega. Ospreay didn’t remain on the offensive for long.
Omega performed another DDT onto the exposed turnbuckle. With Ospreay down in the corner and facing the exposed turnbuckles, Omega delivered a V-Trigger. Omega stood on the middle rope and delivered a ridiculous suplex. Omega had Ospreay in a pinning position, but he picked him up and delivered a V-Trigger, then covered him for a near fall.
Ospreay came back and blasted Omega with strikes and then hit him with a OsCutter from the middle rope for a near fall. Ospreay set up for a Storm Breaker, but Omega slipped away. Omega set up for his finisher, but Ospreay escaped and performed a Styles Clash for a near fall. Ospreay blasted Omega with a Hidden Blade running elbow and covered him for a near fall. Omega slipped out of another Storm Breaker. Omega threw a V-Trigger. Ospreay fired back with a Hidden Blade and both men stayed down.
Both men got back to their feet and traded rolling elbow strikes. Ospreay got the better of it, but Omega grabbed him and performed a straight jacket German suplex for a two count. Omega held onto Ospreay’s wrists. Ospreay, who knew he was doomed, spat at Omega and said “f— you.” Omega threw a V-Trigger knee and then hit the One Winged Angel before scoring the pin…
Kenny Omega defeated defeated Will Ospreay to win the IWGP U.S. Championship.
Powell’s POV: An outstanding match. Omega had some strong matches as AEW World Champion, but this was so much better than any match he’s had AEW thus far. Working with Ospreay certainly helps. This is the singles star version of Omega that AEW needs so much more than The Elite chasing the AEW Trios Titles. This was by far the best match of the night and the guys in the main event have their work cut out for them if they hope to top it.
A video package set up the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship match and then entrances took place (Ospreay vs. Omega won the battle of the entrances)…
9. Jay White (w/Gedo) vs. Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. Rocky Romero sat in on English commentary for the main event. White had the first prolonged stretch of offense and argued with the referee about his slow count. White mocked the referee by saying “two” repeatedly and then stopping to chop Okada.
Okada eventually took offensive control and put White down with a clothesline. Okada applied the Money Clip, but White reached the bottom rope to break the hold and then rolled to ringside. Okada ran the ropes, but Gedo climbed onto the apron and blocked his path. Okada begged off, then tried to punch Okada, who punched Gedo off the apron. Okada went up top and performed a senton dive onto White and Gedo on the floor.
Okada signaled for the Rainmaker, but White dropped into a seated position and then smirked. Okada responded with kicking White in the face. Okada got White to his feet and then dropped him for a forearm. White pulled himself up using the ropes. White threw a forearm that Okada blew off. Okada knocked White down again. Gedo distracted the referee and White went for a low blow, but Okada punched him first. White came back with a uranage slam.
Charlton said the attendance was 26,085 and noted it was the biggest NJPW crowd since the pandemic started. Meanwhile, White performed a dragon sleeper suplex. White picked up Okada and suplexed him into a bridge and got a near fall. White signaled for the Switchblade, but Okada stuffed it and suplexed him. Okada held onto White’s waist and ended up blasting him with a clothesline. Okada went for a Rainmaker. White ducked it and ran the ropes and ended up eating a dropkick.
Okada set up for his finisher, but White countered into the Switchblade and got a near fall. White drilled Omega with back to back clotheslines. White struck the Rainmaker pose and the camera pulled back just as it does for Okada’s version. Okada dodged it and drilled White with a clothesline that led to a close near fall.
A short time later, a manic White repeatedly told Okada that he would not take this from him. Both men stood in the middle of the ring and traded elbow strikes. Both men jockeyed for position. Okada hit White with his own Bladerunner finisher. Okada followed up with Emerald Flowsion and then dropped White with a Rainmaker clothesline and scored the pin.
Kazuchika Okada defeated Jay White to win the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship.
Afterward, White held onto the title belt while referee Red Shoes tried to take it away. White eventually released the belt and then referee put it around the waist of Okada. White got up and stumbled into Okada and said something in what appeared to be a brief sign of respect from his character, then stumbled backward and rolled out of the ring. Kelly said he didn’t know what to make of it. Gedo helped White away from ringside.
Shingo Takagi entered the ring and spoke to Okada in Japanese. He apparently challenged him. Takagi dropped the mic and left the ring while the broadcast team spoke about the two potentially meeting on January 21 at what is being billed as Wrestle Kingdom in Yokohama Arena. Okada spoke to the crowd in Japanese. Charlton said Okada spoke about NJPW’s anniversary and the late Antonio Inoki. Okada played to the crowd and left the ring. He stopped once he got to the stage and said they had to end things the right way. Okada led a cheer for Inoki to close the show…
Powell’s POV: A very good main event. Ideally, Ospreay vs. Omega could have closed the night because it was far less predictable and the pacing made their match the tougher of the two to follow. Realistically, though, they had to put the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship on last, and it gave the show a feel good ending.
Overall, this was an enjoyable event that was carried by the double main events. This won’t be remembered as one of the all-time great Wrestle Kingdom shows, but there was still a lot to like. I’m going to get some sleep, but I will my WK17 audio review will be available later today as this week’s Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast. Let me know what you thought of the show by voting for the best match and grading the overall event below. Good night, good morning, whatever.