By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “Wrestle Kingdom 17”
January 4, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan at the Tokyo Dome
Broadcast live on New Japan World
Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton and Gino Gambino. They said there were about 25,000 fans in attendance.
1. Ryohei Oiwa vs. Boltin Oleg went to a draw at 3:00. This has a three-minute time limit. Oleg work a red singlet, and he threw Oiwa around, and this looked like an amateur wrestling match. Oleg hit a bodyslam right before the time limit, which was right on at three minutes. Kevin Kelly said, “this is a big deal around the world, to have Oleg part of New Japan.”
2. Sho, Toru Yano, Great-O-Khan, and Shingo Takagi co-won the “Rambo” battle royal at 30:37. The four winners will square off on Thursday at “New Year’s Dash.” Pinfalls can occur as well. However, we don’t know how many participants are in the match.
Sho and Hikuleo started. EVIL was #3. Tomohiro Ishii entered as #4 at 3:00. He stood toe-to-toe with Hikuleo, who towered over him. Great-O-Khan is #5, and Gambino remarked “this is going to be one of the most star-studded Rambos we’ve had in a long time.” O-Khan showed off his Rev Pro title. Douki is #6. Rocky Romero is #7. Sho was thrown into EVIL, who was standing on the ring apron, and EVIL got knocked off and eliminated at 8:30. Kenta is #8.
Yoshinobu Kanemaru entered at #9, and Kelly and Charlton speculated on the future of the former Suzuki-Gun members. Aaron Henare is #10 at 12:30, and he immediately traded mid-ring forearm shots with Ishii. Ryusuke Taguchi is #11. Ishii was eliminated by the United Empire. Jeff Cobb is #12. Hikuleo hit a double chokeslam, and he tossed Douki at 16:30. Kanemaru also was eliminated. Shane Haste is #13. His teammate, Mikey Nicholls is #14. Romero was tossed, and Taguchi was pinned. Yujiro Takahashi is #15 at 20:00. Great-O-Khan clotheslined Hikuleo over the top rope to eliminate him, and that was a shock. Cobb was eliminated.
Toru Yano is in at #16. Both Nicholls and Haste were eliminated. El Phantasmo is #17. As the commentary team speculated who is left, Charlton said Shingo Takagi vowed he was not going to be in the match. ELP eliminated Henare at 24:00. Taichi is #18. Shingo Takagi is #19, and Charlton said “he lied to us!” ELP sat down with the commentary team! Kelly asked him if he was still in the match, and Phantasmo replied, “I think so! No one knows what the hell is going on!” Funny because it’s true.
Four guys from the House of Torture and Bullet Club worked together to eliminate Taichi. Shingo tossed Yujiro at 28:30. We have five left. ELP offered Shingo a hug and called him “Daddy.” Shingo tossed ELP, but ELP landed on the guardrail! Yujiro and Kenta carried him to the ring apron. Sho accidentally hit Phantasmo, sending him off the apron to eliminate him and end this match. Once again, Toru Yano never really got in the match.
3. Togi Makabe, Yuji Nagata, and Satoshi Kojima defeated Minoru Suzuki, Tiger Mask, and Tatsumi Fujinami at 9:09. Yuji and Tatsumi opened with standing switches, as the commentary team talked about honoring Antonio Inoki and the history of NJPW. Fujinami got a nice pop for hitting a dragon screw leg whip. Suzuki entered and traded slaps with Nagata. Fujinami entered and traded chops with Nagata. Kojima entered at 4:00 and hit his rapid-fire chops on Minoru in the corner.
Kojima hit a stunner on Tiger Mask. Makabe entered for the first time at 6:30. Fujinami hit dragon screw leg whips on each of his three opponents, and everyone was fighting in the ring. Tiger Mask got a crucifix takedown for a nearfall on Makabe. Togi got a rollup to pin Tiger Mask. Okay match, more for nostalgia than anything.
4. “United Empire” TJP and Francesco Akira defeated Lio Rush and Yoh to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles at 10:43. They immediately all began brawling, and Lio Rush was slammed onto the metal ramp. In the ring, Akira hit a springboard dropkick on Yoh. Akira hit a Doomsday Senton from the apron onto Yoh on the floor at 3:00. TJP hit a facewash on Yoh. Lio got in the ring, but he’s bleeding from the forehead from that slam on the ramp. Lio got in and hit a handspring-back-double elbow on the champs. Lio dove through the ropes and barreled onto Akira at 6:00.
In the ring, Lio hit a spinning Unprettier! Cool move. Akira hit a half-nelson suplex on Lio, and suddenly, all four men were down. Yoh hit a Doomsday superplex, and Lio immediately hit a frogsplash for a believable nearfall. Lio and Rush hit their modified FTR Big Rig. TJP hit the Mamba Splash frogsplash for a believable nearfall at 9:00. Lio hit a mid-ring Spanish Fly, and they once again hit their modified Big Rig for a believable nearfall. Lio hit the Rush Hour springboard stunner. Yoh set up for his double-arm DDT on TJP, but TJP avoided it, got an inside cradle, and scored the pin out of nowhere. Really good match, but not given the time to be the “show-stealer” it could have been.
5. Kairi defeated Tam Nakano to retain the IWGP Women’s Title at 5:59. Nakano was in pink; Kairi in darker red. Quick reversals to start with Tam hitting a dropkick. They switched to mid-ring forearm shots. Kairi hit a spear at 2:00. Tam hit a spinning kick that sent Kairi to the floor. Tam then nailed a top-rope splash onto Kairi on the floor. In the ring, Kairi hit a German Suplex for a nearfall. Tam held Kairi upside down for a delayed vertical suplex, but she turned it into a piledriver for a nearfall at 5:00. Kairi nailed a top-rope elbow drop to score the pin. Good but shockingly short.
* The lights went out and a video aired for Sasha Banks, now called Mercedes Mone. She walked to the ring with a giant headdress. Kevin Kelly said it was the “worst-kept secret,” and she’s taken the spotlight from Kairi. She took off her robe and Charlton said “she’s dressed to wrestle.” Mercedes and Kairi shook hands, but then Mercedes dropped her. She got on the mic and mockingly congratulated her on making history tonight. “I am here in New Japan and Stardom to make some more.” Mercedes challenged her to a match at “Battle in the Valley” on Feb. 18 in San Jose, Calif. Mercedes posed with Kairi’s title.
6. “Bishamon” Yoshi-Hoshi and Hirooki Goto defeated “FTR” Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood to win the IWGP Tag Team Titles at 10:10. Kevin Kelly told us Cash had numerous issues getting to Japan with flight cancellations, and he is certainly not rested. Cash and Yoshi-Hoshi started, then Goto and Dax tagged in at 2:00, and they traded forearm shots. Dax nailed a brainbuster. Cash dove between the ropes onto Goto! Dax hit a top-rope superplex, and Cash immediately hit a frogsplash for a nearfall at 4:00. Cash hit a Dragon Suplex and Dax got a nearfall, as they completely worked over Goto.
Yoshi-Hoshi entered and he hit a superkick on Cash. FTR hit the Big Rig for a nearfall, but Goto made the save. Cash and Yoshi-Hoshi suplexed each other over the top rope to the floor. Dax hit a piledriver on Yoshi-Hoshi for a nearfall. FTR then hit a Spike Piledriver for a believable nearfall at 9:00, but Goto made the save. Bishamon hit the Shoto team slam on Dax to score the pin. New champs! Once again, a really good match, but too short to be a show-stealer.
7. Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Ren Narita to become the first NJPW TV Champion at 10:33. There is a 15-minute time limit. We see Katsuyori Shibata sitting at ringside. Zack is really blond; it’s like the first time seeing Cody Rhodes with blond hair. They traded quick mat reversals. Sabre worked the left wrist and fingers. Narita hit a Northern Lights Suplex at 3:30 for a nearfall. They traded stiff kicks to the back, allowing each other to hit the kicks. Narita hit an enzuigiri and they were both down.
They began trading stiff forearm shots, and Sabre hit his European Uppercuts. Narita caught him with an Exploder Suplex with a bridge for a nearfall at 6:30. Sabre went to an ankle lock. Sabre unloaded some Yes Kicks to the chest. Narita hit a Northern Lights Suplex. Sabre applied a cross-armbreaker on the mat. Sabre began targeting the left arm with some stiff kicks, and this is really good stuff. Sabre got a rollup for a believable nearfall at 9:30. Ren hit a German Suplex. Sabre got another rollup for a believable nearfall. Sabre applied a submission leg lock, and Narita tapped out! “In a split second, it was over,” Gino said.
* Shane Haste and Mikey Nicholls hit the ring! The commentary team wondered if they were going to challenge Sabre for the title. Instead they handed him a TMDK T-shirt. Sabre put it on. “The band is back together!” Gino shouted. This seems look a good move for Sabre, now that Suzuki-Gun has disbanded, and TMDK needed a new member after Jonah (Bronson Reed) has re-signed with WWE.
8. Tama Tonga (w/Jado) defeated Karl Anderson to win the NEVER Openweight Title at 9:42. No Luke Gallows, as expected. Anderson hit him with the the title before the bell and he was in charge. They brawled to the floor, and Anderson hit a sit-out piledriver on the metal ramp. Anderson went for the Gun Stun stunner, but Tonga shoved him away. They got back into the ring at 4:00. They began trading forearm shots. Tonga missed a Stinger Splash.
Anderson nailed a TKO stunner for a nearfall, then a top-rope bulldog move for a nearfall at 6:00. Tonga fired back with a rolling Death Valley Driver. Tama nailed a top-rope crossbody block, then a top-rope frogsplash for a believable nearfall at 8:30. Anderson blocked a Gun Stun. Tama blocked a Gun Stun, and he hit an enzuigiri. Tama nailed a second-run Gun Stun! He peeled off his vest and was fired up. He hit another Gun Stun (he didn’t land it perfectly) for the pin. New champ. Good match.
9. Keiji Muto (a/k/a Great Muta), Shota Umino, and Hiroshi Tanashi defeated Sanada, Tetsuya Naito, and Bushi at 9:19. This is Muto’s final match in New Japan. He is bald here and no face paint, looking completely different than his match a few days ago against Shinsuke Nakamura. Just seconds into the match, Sanada hit a moonsault for a nearfall on Muto. Muto fired back with a Shining Wizard.
Bushi began working over Tanahashi. Naito hit his swinging dropkick onto Tanahashi at 4:00. Shota entered and hit a missile dropkick on Naito, then a huracanrana on Sanada, and a diving forearm on Bushi, and he was fired up. Muto applied a Figure Four on Sanada, while Tanahashi had Bushi in a Sharpshooter, and Shota had Naito in an STF, for triple, simultaneous submission holds. Naito hit a standing neckbreaker on Shota at 8:00, and Bushi began working over Shota.
Shota hit a swinging neckbreaker on Bushi. Tanahashi hit a Sling Blade clothesline on Bushi. Muto hit a Shining Wizard on Bushi. Shota immediately hit a Moxley-style Death Rider double-arm DDT to pin Bushi. good match, and it speaks volumes that in Muto’s farewell match, rising star Shota got the pin.
10. Hiromu Takahashi defeated Master Wato, El Desperado, and Taiji Ishimori in a four-way for the IWJP Junior Heavyweight Title at 16:39. All four fought in the ring, and we had several quick nearfalls and a standoff. Charlton told us there has been some sort of physicality backstage. Ishimori stalled on the ramp. Wato hit a running bulldog on both opponents at 2:30. The other three ran onto the ramp to attack Ishimori, but he managed to hit a big move on each of them, and they were down on the mat, while Ishimori strolled into the ring.
Ishimori hit a top-rope moonsault onto all three at ringside; the three all dove into the ring at the 19-count to avoid the countout. In the ring, Desperado applied a Stretch Muffler on Ishimori; Wato powerbombed Hiromu onto Desperado to break up the move. Desperado dove through the ropes onto Ishimori at 7:00. Wato then hit a dive to the floor. Hiromu nailed a top-rope senton splash to the floor on all three.
In the ring, Desperado hit a spinebuster. Hiromu hit a sit-out powerbomb on Wato. Desperado hit a Blue Thunder Bomb on Ishimori, but he couldn’t hit the Angel Wings faceplant. Desperado punched Wato, and suddenly everyone was down at 10:00. Wato hit a crucifix takedown on Ishimori for a nearfall. Hiromu hit a tower spot out of the corner and got a nearfall on Ishimori. Hiromu and Desperado traded forearm shots, and Hiromu went down. Desperado nailed the Angel Wings, but he couldn’t hit a second one. Hiromu hit the Time Bomb/Air Raid Crash for a believable nearfall at 14:00.
Wato hit a top-rope flying elbow on Hiromu. He hit his double-armbar slam on Desperado for a visual pin, but the ref got pulled out of the ring. Ishimori snuck in the ring and hit Wato with a chairshot to the back. Wato hit the double-armbar slam for a believable nearfall on Ishimori. Wato hit a German Suplex with a high bridge on Hiromu for a believable nearfall. However, Hiromu hit another Time Bomb/Air Raid Crash on Wato for the pin. That was a blast.
11. Kenny Omega (w/Don Callis) defeated Will Ospreay to win the IWGP U.S. Title at 34:37. Omega came out to an elaborate entrance, and a cool graphic of a one-winged angel. The United Empire members present joined Ospreay to ringside. “The dream match is here,” Kelly said. Callis joined the commentary team. Quick standing switches. Omega hit a shoulder tackle but Ospreay popped back up to his feet. Ospreay hit a plancha to the floor, and he whipped Omega into the guardrail at 2:00. Omega shoved Ospreay off the ring apron and crashing into a guardrail.
Omega hit a forward Finlay Roll and a moonsault for a nearfall. He whipped Ospreay hard into a turnbuckle, and Ospreay collapsed in pain. Omega began targeting the back, stomping on it. He hit a kick to the chest that sent Ospreay back-first into a corner where the ring pad had been removed at 6:00. Ospreay hit a stunner, but he’s selling the lower back pain. The commentary team talked about how these two have only met once before, in PWG. Ospreay hit a flying forearm for a nearfall at 8:30.
Ospreay hit an enzuigiri, and they were both down. They fought on the ring apron, and Ospreay nailed a superkick to the jaw at 10:30. Ospreay went for an Oscutter on the apron but Omega avoided it, and Ospreay crashed to the ground. Omega pulled a table out from under the ring, and he hit a doublestomp from the apron onto the table, which was lying on Ospreay’s back, at 12:00. Ospreay has been clutching his lower back most of the match. Ospreay fired up and he dropped Omega back-first on the upside-down table, onto the steel frame! Ospreay then hit a top-rope twisting dive onto Omega on the floor.
In the ring, Ospreay hit a top-rope Hidden Blade forearm to the back of the neck for a believable nearfall at 14:00. Omega hit a kneestrike to the back and a Poison Rana, then a neckbreaker over his knee for a nearfall. Omega was back in charge with strikes to the back of the neck and the kidney. Omega went for a top-rope Dragon Suplex, but Ospreay rotated and landed on his feet! Ospreay hit an Oscutter for a nearfall at 16:30.
Ospreay hit a Helluva Kick in the corner. He tied Omega in the corner and hit some stiff kicks to the face. They fought on the top rope, and Omega hit a DDT onto the top turnbuckle, and they both crashed to the mat. The five members of the United Empire ran over to check on Ospreay on the floor, as we have the 20:00 notice. Ospreay was bleeding heavily from his forehead. Omega hit a baseball slide dropkick to the floor, then a flip dive over the top rope onto Ospreay. Omega slammed Ospreay’s head onto the busted table.
In the ring, Omega hit a piledriver for a nearfall at 22:30, and he hit punches to the face, but the ref pulled Omega off. Ospreay shoved the ref, who went down. Omega nailed a snap Dragon Suplex, then another one. Omega nailed a butterfly piledriver for a believable nearfall, but Ospreay got a foot on the ropes at 24:30. Omega nailed a V-Trigger kneestrike, sending Ospreay crashing to the floor. Omega went to the top rope, but Ospreay bounced off the ropes, causing Omega to fall and get crotched in the corner.
Ospreay set up for a Frankensteiner, but Omega dropped him jaw-first on the top turnbuckle. Omega nailed a V-Trigger into the corner. Omega set up for a second-rope One-Winged Angel, but he turned it into a German Suplex for a nearfall, then a mid-ring V-Trigger for a believable nearfall at 28:00. He went for another V-Trigger, but Ospreay caught his leg. Ospreay fired up and hit a series of Kawada Kicks. Ospreay nailed a sit-out powerbomb for a believable nearfall, and they were both down at 30:00.
Ospreay nailed a forearm to back of the head, then a Hidden Blade forearm. Ospreay hit a top-rope Oscutter for a nearfall. He set up for a Stormbreaker, but Omega escaped. Omega set up for One-Winged Angel, but Ospreay escaped. Ospreay nailed a Styles Clash on Omega! Ospreay nailed a Hidden Blade to Omega’s jaw for a believable nearfall. Ospreay couldn’t hit the Stormbreaker; Omega hit another V-Trigger and they were both down. They got up and traded forearm shot at 33:00. Omega nailed a German Suplex for a nearfall. Omega hit a V-Trigger, then the One-Winged Angel for the clean pin. WOW, that was so good.
* A nice video aired to highlight our main event. Good idea; we needed a quick breather after that prior match!
12. Kazuchika Okada defeated Jay White (w/Gedo) to win the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship at 33:02. Rocky Romero has now joined the commentary team. Jay White is 4-1 all time against Okada. White jawed at the crowd, encouraging them to chant Okada. An intense lockup to start, and White playfully slapped him in the face. White hit a Saito Suplex at 3:30. White hit some uppercuts to Okada’s back, then a DDT for a nearfall. They rolled to the floor, where White slammed Okada’s back into the guardrail at 6:00, then he dropped him face-first onto the ring apron.
White was in charge in the ring. Okada nailed a DDT, and they were both down at 8:30. Okada hit a flapjack, dropping White gut-first on the mat. White shoved the ref. Okada hit a dropkick as White was seated on the top turnbuckle, sending Jay crashing to the floor at 10:30. Okada hit a double DDT on White and Gedo on the floor. In the ring, Okada hit a top-rope missile dropkick, and he applied the Money Clip submission hold, but White fought out of it. White nailed a Flatliner faceplant and a German Suplex at 12:30.
White hit a fisherman’s suplex for a nearfall. He hit a chop block to the back of Okada’s left knee at 15:00. White hit some deafening chops but Okada no-sold them. Okada nailed his nice dropkick, and he was fired up. He again applied a Money Clip sleeperhold. Okada hit a spinning Tombstone Piledriver and a tornado lariat clothesline at 17:30, then he went back to the Money Clip, but White reached the ropes. Okada set up for a dive to the floor, but Gedo hopped on the ring apron to block him, so Okada punched hm. Okada nailed a top-rope summersault senton (Swanton Bomb) onto both of them on the floor at 19:00.
Okada nailed a top-rope elbow drop in the ring, and he signaled he was going for the Rainmaker, but White dropped to the mat to avoid it. They traded forearm shots, with Okada getting the better of the exchange. White hit a Rock Bottom/uranage, and they were both down at 22:30. White hit a leg-capture back suplex for a nearfall, then a brainbuster. He set up for Blade Runner, but Okada avoided it and hit a German Suplex at 24:30. Okada hit a clothesline, then a second one. Okada hit another dropkick, then a piledriver. White hit a Blade Runner swinging faceplant for a believable nearfall, and the crowd popped for the move.
White hit a short-arm clothesline, and Gambino called it the “Jay-Maker.” He mockingly made Okada’s “Rainmaker” pose. However, Okada avoided a Blade Runner and hit a Rainmaker, and they were both down at 28:00. They traded forearm shots while on their knees, then from the standing position as we cross 30:00. White shouted, “You’re not going to take this from me!” They traded more forearm shots. Okada hit an enziguri. Okada nailed a Blade Runner at 32:30!! He hit a bulldog powerslam off his shoulders, then the Rainmaker clothesline for the pin. New champion!
* White struggled to his feet and he gave Okada a sign of respect. As soon as White left the ring, Shingo Takagi rolled into the ring and congratulated Okada on his win. He said he lost the belt one year ago to Okada, and he hasn’t forgotten it. He challenged Okada for the title, suggesting it take place Feb. 1. He dropped the mic and left. Okada picked up the mic and thanked the fans for their support. He looked to the sky and asked Antonio Inoki what he thought of the fight, and he got teary-eyed. He said he hopes Inoki continues to have a watchful eye over us.
Final Thoughts: Both main events were fantastic. While I liked Ospreay-Omega far more, I wouldn’t argue with anyone who liked Okada-White for best. I think in both cases, they were wise to keep it in the low-30 minute range, rather than push close to an hour. Despite the length of both matches, neither match dragged at any point. The juniors four-way earned third best. Worth pointing out that Ishimori lost his title without getting pinned, so he should get a singles rematch against Hiromu.
I fully expected Muto’s team to win, just as a sendoff for him, but the Shota win is very telling about how high everyone is on him. Glad for both Tama Tonga and Zack Sabre for winning their respective matches and titles; I don’t doubt Sabre will be defending that belt all over the world. I’m not a huge fan of Yoshi-Hoshi and Goto, and if Omega is going to be returning here to defend a belt, I wish FTR had won here, too.
Yes, this was an epic and long show, but no complaints from me, other than I wish some of the matches had been even longer.
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