IWGP World Champion Jay White will defend his title against Kazuchika Okada in the main event of NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 17 in Tokyo, Japan.
In a highly-anticipated matchup, IWGP U.S. Champion Will Ospreay will defend the title against Kenny Omega in the latter’s first NJPW match in four years.
The annual event is also expected to feature an appearance by Sasha Banks — her first in wrestling since she and Naomi walked out of WWE in May 2022.
As part of his retirement tour, Keiji Mutoh will team with Hiroshi Tanahashi & Shota Umino against Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & BUSHI.
The show will feature eight total title matches including the first-ever IWGP Women’s Champion KAIRI defending against Tam Nakano; IWGP Tag Team Champions FTR defending against YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto; and WWE wrestler Karl Anderson defending the NEVER Openweight title against Tama Tonga.
The first-ever NJPW TV Champion will be crowned as Zack Sabre Jr. faces Ren Narita.
Time-Limit-Draw: Boltin Oleg vs Ryohei Oiwa
Oleg opened his debut with heavy grappling, taking a quick lead. Oiwa somewhat held his own, especially toward the end of the 3-minute time limit, but this match was mostly Oleg.
This was brief to a fault, but I am stoked to see Oleg’s career blossom in the coming months.
KOPW 2023 Qualifier New Japan Rambo: SHO Great-O-Khan, Toru Yano, and Shingo Takagi advance
This match was a standard Rambo – periodic entries with a handful of oddities to set up tomorrow’s four-way for the KOPW trophy. Wrestlers can be eliminated by pinfall, submission, disqualification, and throws over the top rope.
The first two wrestlers were Sho and Hikuleo. Hikuleo gained a lead over the smaller Sho just before EVIL, and Dick Togo hit the ring. Togo wasn’t a legal competitor, but he was there anyway. Hikuleo held his own with backing sort of coming as Tomohiro Ishii entered the match.
The Great-O-Khan, DOUKI, and Rocky Romero entered the match as the ring filled. Romero scored the first elimination after a forearm sent EVIL to the floor.
KENTA, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Aaron Henare, and Ryusuke Taguchi all entered the ring before the United Empire pair eliminated Ishii. Jeff Cobb entered the ring before Hikuleo eliminated DOUKI and Kanemaru.
Shane Haste and Mikey Nicholls of TMDK entered the match around the same time, leading to them eliminating Romero and Taguchi.
Yujiro Takahashi entered the ring around the time United Empire eliminated Hikuleo. TMDK responded by eliminating Cobb as Toru Yano made his way to the ring. To follow up, the remaining United Empire members eliminated TMDK.
El Phantasmo joined the match, bolstering the Bullet Club numbers even further. ELP eliminated Henare with a nipple twist just as Taichi made his first post-Suzuki-gun entrance.
The 2022 King of Pro Wrestling, Shingo Takagi, was the last entrant. The four remaining Bullet Club members eliminated Taichi, leaving Shingo free to eliminate Yujiro and KENTA. SHO accidentally eliminated ELP to mark the match’s end, leaving himself, Great-O-Khan, Toru Yano, and Shingo Takagi in the inaugural KOPW 2023 match tomorrow.
Antonio Inoki Memorial Match: Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima & Togi Makabe defeated Tatsumi Fujinami, Tiger Mask & Minoru Suzuki
This match was a ton of fun. It was filled with a mix of sloppy old-man wrestling and special moments.
Makabe won the match for his team after Tiger Mask failed something resembling a rollup and Makabe kind of just sat on him for a pinfall.
After the match, Fujinami cut a promo, ending with Inoki’s “Ichi, Ni, San, DA!”
Antonio Inoki Movie Announcement
After the match, a short video announced an Antoni Inoki movie in production.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Catch 2/2 (Francesco Akira & TJP) (c) defeated CHAOS (Lio Rush & YOH)
This was a bloody sprint in the best possible way: a great match and a great way to open the main card.
The match opened with YOH landing a dive to the floor. Rush followed this with a dive of his own, leading to an outside brawl. A double cutter from Catch 2/2 on the ramp allowed the champions to take control of the match, even after the hot start from the challengers.
Rush interrupted 2/2’s control with a spear, revealing a crimson mask in the process. Even with blood streaming down his face, Rush landed dives to the floor to take out both champions.
After a superplex from YOH, the match fell into chaos. Both teams landed finishes and scored near falls in quick succession. After the entire sequence, TJP reversed Direct Drive into an inside cradle, pinning YOH, and retaining their belts.
IWGP Women’s Championship: KAIRI (c) defeated Tam Nakano
This was very brief, but fantastic, given their time.
The match opened with a back-and-forth filled with grappling and impactful strikes. The action soon escalated as Tam established control, landing a Violet Screwdriver for a nearfall.
Kairi bounced back quick, landing a spinning back fist to drop the challenger. Kairi then climbed to the top rope and landed her finishing elbow drop to win the match.
After the match, the lights cut out and Mercedes Mone, formerly known as Sasha Banks, made her way to the ring in a robe adorned with the Japanese flag. Mone dropped Kairi after a brief staredown.
Mone then cut a promo and declared herself the “CEO of this women’s division.” She then challenged Kairi for Battle in the Valley in San Jose.
IWGP Tag Team Championships: Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) defeated FTR (Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler) (c)
Another fantastic match. If this marks the end of FTR’s legendary multi-promotional run, it was an excellent way to go out.
The match opened with a pace-setting strike exchange. Cash continued to increase the intensity with a dive to the floor followed by an FTR superplex/splash combination.
Goto reversed a Big Rig attempt and dropped Dax with a Ushigoroshi, setting YH up for a rally. FTR stopped the comeback with a sudden Big Rig that forced YH to break up a pin attempt.
An awkward suplex to the floor left Dax and Goto alone in the ring. Dax tried for multiple piledrivers but couldn’t connect. Goto survived long enough to land a headbutt and tag out to YH, who had somewhat recovered. YH attempted to turn things around but was hit by a pair of piledrivers that forced Goto to break up the pin.
After surviving another close call, Bishamon began rallying. After clearing the ring of Cash, Bishamon dropped Dax with GYR and secured the pin to win the IWGP tag team championship.
NJPW World TV Championship: Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Ren Narita
This was a great match. The abbreviated time limit is such a nice addition to the New Japan lineup, even if they don’t need another championship.
The match opened with a scramble on the mat. ZSJ unsurprisingly took control, but Narita was able to challenge him once standing.
A pattern soon developed where ZSJ would take advantage, forcing Narita into over-emotional rallies. ZSJ eventually won out in this back-and-forth, catching Narita in an armbar and winning his first singles championship in New Japan.
After the match, TMDK came to the ring and offered ZSJ a spot in their group. ZSJ, fresh out of Suzuki-gun, accepted, joining Shane Haste and Mikey Nicholls.
NEVER Openweight Championship: Tama Tonga defeated Karl Anderson (c)
This was not a good match.
Before the match could begin, Anderson dropped Tama with the NEVER belt, then slammed Tama against the barricade and dropped him with the burner driver on the ramp. Tama avoided the gun stun attempt on the ramp, saving the match from an early end.
Even as Tama fought back to the ring, Anderson maintained control. Anderson landed a cutter from the top rope for a nearfall before attempting a gun stun; Tama reversed the finish attempt.
Tama landed a splash from the top rope, which he followed with another; Anderson kicked out. Tama tried for a gun stun of his own; Anderson reversed. After a sequence of gun stun attempts from both guys, Tama connected with a second rope gun stun. Tama then went for another gun stun, fumbled it, but pinned Anderson anyways. Tama is the NEVER Openweight Champion once more.
Tama has saved NEVER and New Japan from Anderson, I guess.
Keiji Muto’s Last NJPW Match: Keiji Muto, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Shota Umino defeated Los Ingobernables De Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & BUSHI)
Muto opened his last New Japan match against Sanada. Sanada dopped Muto with a series of dropkicks and landed a moonsault for a moonsault in the match’s opening sequence. Muto bounced back with a shining wizard before teasing a moonsault; luckily for us all, especially Muto, Tanahashi talked him down from the ropes.
After Muto tagged out, the match continued in a formulaic fashion. Shota was allowed to get in quite a bit of offense against LIJ.
After clearing the ring of everyone but Bushi, Shota and Tanahashi set up one last shining wizard for Muto. Shoto then closed the match with a death rider, scoring the deciding fall in Muto’s final New Japan match.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Hiromu Takahashi defeated Taiji Ishimori, El Desperado, and Master Wato
This match just felt off. Plotting multi-mans aren’t my thing to begin with, but this was more of a chore than I expected. The backstage fight felt much more compelling than whatever these guys were doing. There were a lot of moves, if you’re into that.
The match started fast, leading to a sequence of pin attempts, but as the match continued, there was a lot waiting outside of the ring.
After a triple-count-out spot, there was a double-submission spot that left Hiromu and Wato alone in the ring. Wato tried for a dive but was stopped. Instead, it was Hiromu who landed the dive to take out the three others. The match continued in this pattern for some time.
Desperado hit Hiromu with a Pinche Loco and tried for a second, but Hiromu reversed into a Timebomb for a nearfall. Wato scored a pair of nearfalls with Recientemente after hitting the ring to pick up the scraps. Hiromu survived a German suplex from Wato before catching Wato with Time Bomb 2 to win the match.
As this match was underway, commentary informed viewers of a backstage fight. Later on, it was announced Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Kongo faction confronted Los Ingogrenobles de Japon.
IWGP United States Championship: Kenny Omega defeated Will Ospreay (c)
This was one of, if not the, best heel performances of Omega’s career; it was incredibly vicious. Ospreay was also very good in his role. An absolutely impressive match, bell-to-bell, and a true must-watch.
The match opened with an aggressive feeling-out process. Ospreay landed a dive to the floor, but Omega wasn’t far behind, slamming Ospreay into the barricade to establish control for the first time.
Omega used his control to slow the pace, punishing Ospreay and establishing himself as the match’s heel.
Ospreay fought back into the match with methodical offense of his own before attempting OsCutter against the apron. Ospreay missed the cutter and crashed against the ring. Omega answered by pulling a table from under the ring and stomping it through Ospreay’s back.
Ospreay answered Omega’s violence with a series of strikes and a suplex into the back of the table. Ospreay followed this with a stunning dive from the top rope and a flying forearm for a near fall.
Ospreay attempted OsCutter again, but Omega had the answer. Omega tried to turn the match on its head after escaping Ospreay’s finish, but Ospreay held on. Ospreay landed on his feet from a top rope suplex attempt before landing OsCutter for the first time; Omega kicked out.
Omega landed a sickly DDT from the top rope into an exposed top turnbuckle that sent Ospreay crashing to the floor. In case the bump wasn’t nearly enough, it also busted Ospreay wide open. Omega followed up, landing a dive to the floor before driving Ospreay’s head through the table. Then, back in the ring, Omega landed a piledriver and assumed top mount to punish the champion further.
Ospreay reversed a top rope dive, but was too slow. Again, Omega sent Ospreay crashing into the exposed top turnbuckle. Omega then landed a V-trigger into the exposed corner before landing an insane suplex from the top. Omega hit another V-trigger in an attempt to close, but Ospreay kicked out.
Ospreay began to bounce back after reversing a V-trigger. Ospreay landed a pair of hidden blades and a super OsCutter; Omega kicked out. After escaping a one-winged angel attempt, Ospreay landed a Style’s Clash and a picture-perfect hidden blade for another near fall.
Ospreay tried for Stormbreaker but got caught with a V-trigger. Omega set up Ospreay for another; Ospreay, now beyond beaten down, spit in Omega’s face. After hitting another V-trigger, Omega landed the one-wing angle to win his return match to New Japan and reclaim the IWGP United States Championship.
IWGP World Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada defeated Jay White (c)
I had very high hopes for this match, but it didn’t deliver. It was overly-plotting and generally uninteresting. There wasn’t anything in this match to hate, but there wasn’t anything in it to love, either. It just happened.
The opening segment was definitely a sharp slowdown from the high from the last match. White set the pace with his textbook control. Okada began to gain some footing with a DDT, which he followed with a lot of his signature offense. Okada dropkicked White to the floor to take the lead for the first time.
On the outside, Okada dropped Gedo and White with a double DDT. Once back in the ropes, Okada landed a top rope drop kick and set up for the money clip, but White reversed, retaking control after driving Okada into the corner.
Okada fought through chops from White, answering with heavy forearms and a dropkick to retake momentum. A tombstone and clothesline let Okada lock in the money clip, but White escaped the hold. Okada tried for the Okada dive but was blocked by Gedo. Instead, Okada hit a top rope senton to take out both men.
After a long control sequence from Okada, White fought back, retaking a significant lead with a sleeper suplex. White attempted a Blade Runner, but Okada reversed into a German suplex. Okada landed a lariat, dropkick, and a landslide to reset the match.
When Okada attempted rainmaker proper, White reversed into a Bladerunner; Okada kicked out. A pair of short-arm lariats from White set up another Bladerunner, but this time Okada reversed into a rainmaker; White kicked out.
After a couple more meandering control segments, Okada connected with a Bladerunner of his own. Okada then hit the rainmaker to win the match and the IWGP World Heavyweight championship to close Wrestle Kingdom 17.
After the match, White and Okada had a brief staredown that was more interesting than anything that happened bell-to-bell.
Shingo Takagi interrupted Okada’s celebration to challenge him for the belt.
After Shingo’s interruption ended, Okada cut a show-ending promo, thanking the fans and the late Antonio Inoki.
Even if the main event didn’t deliver, this was easily one of the best Tokyo Dome shows in years. The crowd was hot and most of the matches were great. This felt like a real return to form for New Japan.