NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 17 in Yokohama Arena results: Vetter’s review of Tetsuya Naito vs. Kenoh, Shingo Takagi vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima, Sanada vs. Manabu Soya, Hiromu Takahashi vs. Hajime Ohara, Bushi vs. Tadasuke, Kazuchika Okada and Togi Makabe vs. Yoshiki Inamura and Kaito Kiyomiya, Jay Briscoe tribute

By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)

New Japan Pro Wrestling “Wrestle Kingdom 17 in Yokohama Arena”
January 21, 2023 in Kanagawa, Japan at Yokohama Arena
Streamed on New Japan World

This is NJPW vs. NOAH in a battle of two promotions. Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton provided commentary from ringside; they are somewhat muffled because they are wearing masks. This is a large venue with a crowd that has to be 4,000 or more. This is a “cheering crowd” event, which is still not the norm in Japan in the pandemic-era; I mention it, because you can really feel the energy difference compared to when fans can only clap or stomp.

I admittedly do NOT know NOAH wrestlers or storylines, so bear with me; I know guys who have appeared in the U.S., like Naomichi Marufuji. This show is built around five singles matches with the members of Los Ingobernobles de Japon (representing New Japan) vs. Kongo, a NOAH faction. We start with two “pre-show matches.”

1. Ryohei Oiwa and Kosei Fujita (NJPW) defeated Taishi Ozawa and Yasutaka Yano (NOAH) at 12:11. Yano and Ozawa are NOAH’s Young Lions, facing NJPW’s Young Lions. Ozawa wore black trunks, while Yano wore Yuji Nagata-style blue trunks. Ozawa has a height and weight advantage over the NJPW duo. Fujita applied a deep Boston Crab, and Ozawa tapped out. Like most Young Lion matches, it stayed pretty basic.

2. Daiki Inaba and Masa Kitamiya (NOAH) defeated Tomohiro Ishii and Oskar Leube (NJPW) at 10:27. Masa is wide and thick, like EVIL. Again, Oskar is the tall German and pale and I think of him as a lankier Gunther. Ishii and Masa started with shoulder tackles and neither man budging, and they switched to forearm shots. Awesome start. Daiki entered at 1:30 to face Leube (Kelly said he’s learned its pronounced ‘Loy bay’.) Daiki hit a bodyslam for a nearfall. Ishii re-entered and nailed multiple, multiple chops in the corner on Daiki. Daiki tried to fire back with some forearm shots, but Ishii no-sold them.

Masa made the hot tag at 6:00 and brawled some more with Ishii, then he hit a senton. They traded more stiff forearms, and Masa hit a Samoan Drop. Ishii nailed a brainbuster, and they were both down. Leube tagged in. Daiki dropped Oskar with a clothesline. Oskar applied a Boston Crab on Masa, but Masa reached the ropes at 9:30. Masa applied a modified Figure Four Leglock, and Oskar tapped out. Good match. I definitely would love to see a Masa-Ishii singles match. Ishii continued to brawl with the NOAH duo to the back.

* The main show began with an on-screen graphic to honor Jay Briscoe. The wrestlers from both locker rooms walked to ringside, with Marufuji and Tanahashi holding 8-by-10 framed photos of Jay. This was followed by the traditional 10-bell salute. They played the “Reach for the Sky!” intro music as the cameras focused on the pictures of Jay. Everything about this was so classy and well done.

* We moved to a video showing New Japan winning a match against NOAH in January 2022, and the set-up to this show.

3. Satoshi Kojima, Toru Yano, Takashi Sugiura, and Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Kenta, El Phantasmo, Gedo, and Naomichi Marufuji at 12:19. We have wrestlers from both promotions on each team. Marufuji and Tanahashi started, with Hiroshi hitting a second-rope crossbody block. Gedo entered and battled Kojima, with Satoshi hitting his rapid-fire chops in the corner. ELP entered and raked Kojima’s back at 4:30, and they worked over Kojima. Kojima hit a DDT on ELP. Takashi tagged in and hit a running knee in the corner on Phantasmo, then a second-rope superplex for a nearfall at 7:00.

Kenta entered for the first time and hit some kicks to Takashi’s chest. Kenta and Tanahashi traded multiple forearm shots and Tanahashi hit a Sling Blade clothesline as we reach 10:00. Yano entered for the first time to face Marufuji. Naomichi caught him with a kick to the face. Kenta and Gedo tried to get Marufuji to throw up the “too sweet!” handsign. But before Marufuji could decide, Yano snuck in, hit a low blow on Gedo, got a rollup, and scored the cheap pin. Solid match.

4. El Desperado (NJPW) defeated Yo-Hey (NOAH) at 10:57. Yo-Hey has a splash of orange and purple in his blond hair. They traded chops eary on, and Desperado nailed a flip dive through the ropes at 3:00. In the ring, Desperado tied up Yo-Hey’s legs on the mat, but Yo-Hey reached the ropes. Yo-Hey hit a flip dive over the top rope, and they were both down on the floor at 6:00. In the ring, Desperado nailed a Spinebuster, and he applied the Stretch Muffler leglock around his neck.

Desperado nailed a Blue Thunder Bomb for a nearfall. Yo-Hey avoided the Angels Wings faceplant, and he hit a stunner for a nearfall. Yo-Hey nailed a dropkick for a nearfall at 9:00, but he was selling a leg injury. Desperado hit a chop block on the injured leg, and he applied the Stretch Muffler again. Yo-Hey rolled him over for a believable nearfall! Desperado hit a Dragon Screw leg whip, applied the Stretch Muffler, and Yo-Hey tapped out. This was easily best match of the show so far.

5. Amakusa, Alejandro, and Junta Miyawaki (NOAH) defeated Master Wato, Tiger Mask, and Ryusuke Taguchi (NPW) at 9:37. Alejandro’s gear and mask reminds me of Ultimo Dragon, or the Laredo Kid. Amakusa wore blue pants, and he has long hair in a ponytail; he opened against Wato. Tiger Mask and Alejandro entered at 1:30, with Alejandro hitting a catapult splash on Tiger Mask. Junta, wearing basic white trunks, entered and faced Taguchi. Wato and Junta picked things up with some hard forearm shots.

Taguchi accidentally crashed into partner Wato! Tiger Mask hit a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker over his knee on Amakusa at 6:30. Junta and Alejandro hit simultaneous planchas to the floor, and Amakusa hit a cool, twisting dive to the floor. In the ring, Amakusa hit a top-rope twisting splash onto Tiger Mask for a believable nearfall. Tiger Mask nailed the Tiger Driver/butterfly powerbomb for a believable nearfall. He went for the Tiger Suplex, but Amakusa fought out of it. Amakusa hit a top-rope Phoenix Splash on Tiger Mask for the pin. Good match; I didn’t know any of the NOAH guys but all three looked good.

6. Yoshiki Inamura and Kaito Kiyomiya (NOAH) vs. Togi Makabe and Kazuchika Okada (NJPW) ended in a no contest at 6:30. At first glance, with his metallic gothic outfit, Inamura is a powerhouse and made me think of Abyss or PCO. Kaito has blond hair and is a younger Okada, wearing a flamboyant jacket that could belong to Hiromu Takahashi. Inamura and Makabe started and traded shoulder tackles. Okada tagged in at 1:30 to help work over Inamura. Kaito jumped in and hit Okada with a kick to the face, just above his left eye, so Okada left the ring and beat up Kaito on the floor, and this was stiff.

The crowd really came alive for this action. Kevin Kelly urged the ref to ring the bell and stop the match. Kaito hit a German Suplex on Okada on the floor at 5:30. Inamura and Makabe kept their respective partners at bey. However, Kaito and Okada charged at each other again, and the ref called for the bell. The crowd booed the non-finish, but this was hot while it lasted. Kaito got on the mic and demanded a singles match. They charged at each other again and had to be separated.

7. Tadasuke (NOAH) defeated Bushi (NJPW) at 11:22. Tadasuke wore a red rockers’ jacket with tassels. Bushi attacked at the bell. They brawled to the floor, where Bushi whipped Tadasuke into the guardrail. In the ring, Tadasuke tied Bushi up on the mat. They traded chops. Bushi hit some stiff kicks to the back at 5:00 as Tadasuke was seated on the mat. Bushi then dove through the ropes and barreled into Tadasuke on the floor. Bushi then hit a top-rope missile dropkick in the ring and a Lungblower to the back, then to the chest.

Bushi leapt off the ropes, but Tadasuke caught him with a clothesline, and they were both down at 7:30. Tadasuke hit some short-arm clotheslines. They brawled back to the floor, with Bushi whipped into the guardrail. Bushi hit a Rude Awakening standing neckbreaker across the guardrail! Ouch! In the ring, Bushi sprayed green mist in Tadasuke’s face. However, Tadasuke hooked both arms, got a rollup and the pin. Decent match. They continued brawling after the bell.

8. Hiromu Takahashi (NJPW) defeated Hajime Ohara (NOAH) at 13:05. Ohara wore red and black pants and appears young. Charlton said OHara was leaving CMLL when Hiromu arrived, so they hadn’t really crossed paths before. Early in the match, Ohara applied a half-crab, but Hiromu reached the ropes. Hiromu went for his shotgun dropkick off the ring apron, but Ohara avoided it and Hiromu crashed to the ground at 5:00. Ohara beat up Hiromu on the floor and whipped him into the guardrail.

In the ring, Ohara hit a backbreaker over his knee for a nearfall. Hiromu fired back with a Death Valley Driver into the turnbuckles, and they were both down at 7:00. Hiromu was selling a lower back injury. Hiromu hit a Michinoku Driver for a nearfall, but he continued to sell the back injury. Ohara applied the half-crab again, and the crowd was really coming alive for an upset, but Hiromu got a foot on the ropes at 12:00. Hiromu hit a superkick and a clothesline, then he dropped him stomach-first on the mat for a nearfall. Hiromu then hit the Time Bomb #2/Air Raid Crash for the clean pin. Kevin Kelly said Hiromu “wound up in one helluva fight.”

9. Manabu Soya (NOAH) defeated Sanada (NJPW) at 13:56. Kevin Kelly said these guys are former tag partners. Soya is a big bull of a man, like Ishii, with bright red hair. An intense lockup to start and standing switches, and this feels like a legit fight early. Soya clotheslined Sanada to the floor, and Sanada grabbed his wrist in pain. Soya whipped him into the guardrails at 2:30. In the ring, Soya hit a bulldog for a nearfall. Sanada hit a plancha to the floor, and the crowd rallied for him. In the ring, Soya hit a backbreaker over his shoulder.

Sanada fired back with a springboard dropkick and a TKO stunner. Sanada went for a top-rope moonsault, but Soya got his knees up, and they were both down. They got up and traded chops at 9:00. Soya hit a Death Valley Driver. Sanada applied the Skull End dragon sleeper. Soya fought out and hit a brainbuster, then a DDT for a believable nearfall at 12:30. Sanada hit a huracanrana for a nearfall. Soya hit a clothesline and scored the pin. That was really good.

10. Shingo Takagi (NJPW) defeated Katsuhiko Nakajima (NOAH) at 18:26. Intense reversals early, and Nakajima hit some kicks to the gut, and Shingo sold a rib injury on the floor. Back in the ring, Nakajima hit some spin kicks to the ribs, with Shingo doing his best to cover up and protect himself. Not a lot to describe early on. Shingo finally hit some knee-lifts into the gut at 9:00 and his sliding clothesline, but he immediately clutched at his ribs. Shingo nailed a clothesline in the corner, then a top-rope superplex for a nearfall.

They got up and traded forearm shots, and Nakajima laughed off the blows. These got really loud and the crowd was back into it. Nakajima hit more kicks to the ribs, while Shingo hit some clotheslines, but he was weakened and they had no effect. Shingo hit a belly-to-belly overhead suplex, but he missed the Pumping Bomber clothesline. Nakajima hit a hard slap to the face that dropped Shingo at 15:30, then a brainbuster for a believable nearfall, and Nakajima was stunned he didn’t get the win there.

Nakajima went for a spin kick, but Shingo caught the leg, put him on his shoulders, and nailed the Made In Japan powerbomb. Shingo then NAILED the Pumping Bomber for a believable nearfall, with Kelly and Charlton going nuts for the kickout. Shingo nailed a half-nelson suplex, then the Last of the Dragon sit-out powerbomb for the clean pin. The last five or so minutes here were absolutely fantastic. Because this was a best-of-five series, you knew Shingo had to win to tie it at 2-2, but I really thought Nakajima had won with that brainbuster.

11. Tetsuya Naito (NJPW) defeated Kenoh (NOAH) at 26:56. Kenoh is blond and wore an elaborate red robe. Kenoh tied him up against the ropes, so Naito stalled and regrouped on the floor. In the ring, they traded standing switches. Naito hit a headscissors takedown and he teased a dive to the floor but instead did the tranquilo pose on the mat; Kenoh jumped in and hit a doublestomp on Naito as he posed on the mat at 5:00. They brawled to the floor, where Kenoh hit a bodyslam.

In the ring, Kenoh grounded Naito with a leglock around the waist, and he was in full control. Naito nailed a dropkick to the knee at 10:30, and they were both down. Naito hit a basement dropkick to the back of the head, then his swinging dropkick into the corner. Naito applied a head/shoulders submission hold with his legs; Kenoh finally reached the ropes at 13:00. Kenoh hit a running kick to the back of Naito’s head, and they were both down. Kenoh hit a number of kicks, as the crowd began rallying for Naito.

Kenoh hit a bodyslam and a Dragon Suplex, and they were both down again at the 20:00 call. Kenoh missed a top-rope doublestomp. Kenoh hit some spin kicks to the chest, and he switched to an anklelock, and he punted Naito in the gut at 23:00. This time, Kenoh nailed the top-rope doublestomp to the chest for a believable nearfall. Kenoh missed a top-rope moonsault, and Naito immediately hit a spinebuster, and they were both down. Kelly and Charlton mentioned earlier we have a 30-minute time limit, and we reached 25:00 here.

Naito couldn’t hit the Destino, but he hit an enziguri. The crowd is really getting hot as they know we are approaching a draw. Naito got a Destino but not all of it, for a nearfall. He hit a Snow Plow-type driver, then he fully hit the Destino for the clean pin. Another really good match to close out the show.

* Naito got on the mic and said it was a great crowd throughout the show. He noted that LIJ finished 3-2 over Kongo. He said he’d be happy to have Kongo in the ring again. Keiji Mutoh, who was seated at ringside, climbed in the ring as Naito was headed up the ramp. Mutoh challenged Naito for his final match at the Tokyo Dome. Naito returned to the ring and got on the mic, and said, “I’ll clear my schedule.” They stood toe-to-toe and glared at each other. Cool finish.

Final Thoughts: The five singles matches between LIJ and Kongo were all really entertaining, but everyone will rightfully be buzzing about the hot interaction between Okada and Kaito. I personally liked the Shingo match for best, just because the last five were so good. I’ll give Naito second-best and Soya-Sanada for third. Honorable mention to Desperado vs. Yo-Hey.

I really enjoyed this show. Like I noted above, I hadn’t really watched NOAH before, but I really liked most of the guys I saw here. This was a long show, clocking in at more than four hours. No rest for the wicked, as New Japan Pro Wrestling is back in action Sunday.

SPECIAL EPISODE

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