Wrestle Kingdom is regarded as one of the biggest nights on the professional wrestling calendar. Traditionally, the event is held on January 4th inside the iconic Tokyo Dome, however in 2020, for the first time in Wrestle Kingdom history the show will be taking place over two nights, the 4th and 5th. The two night extravaganza is not the only historic first that will be occurring over the weekend, as New Japan’s first ever ‘double’ Champion will be crowned. NJPW are billing the mini 3 bout ‘tournament’ as the ‘Double Gold Dash,’ that will see Kazuchika Okada, Kota Ibushi, Jay White and Tetsuya Naito attempt to become the first ever IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Champion concurrently.
AEW Champion Chris Jericho will also be facing NJPW Ace Hiroshi Tanahashi with some with big implications on Night 2. This match reaches far beyond the realms of New Japan, with Tanahashi stating that he wanted a bout for the AEW Championship if he were to defeat the ‘Painmaker’ at Wrestle Kingdom. It has long been reported that the relationship between NJPW and AEW is splintered, and that the companies would not work together. However this challenge set down by Tanahashi, which was officially recognised by NJPW, may mean that there’s opportunities down the road for the two companies to work together.
- Preshow Match 1 – Toa Henare, Karl Fredericks, Clark Connors and Alex Coughlin b. Yuya Uemura, Yota Tsuji, Tomoaki Honma and Togi Makabe
- Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan b. Manabu Nakanishi and Yuji Nagata
- Naoki Sano, Shinjiro Otani, Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Ryusuke Taguchi b. Jyushin Thunder Liger, Tatsumi Fujinami, The Great Sasuke & Tiger Mask
- Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr., Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & El Desperado) b. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Sanada, Evil, Shingo Takagi & Bushi)
- Chaos (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Yoshi-Hashi) b. Bullet Club (Kenta, Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens)
- IWGP Tag Team Championship Match – FinJuice (David Finlay & Juice Robinson) b. Guerrillas of Destiny (NEW CHAMPIONS)
- IWGP United States Championship Match – Jon Moxley b. Lance Archer [Texas DeathMatch Rules] (NEW CHAMPION)
- IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match – Hiromu Takahashi b. Will Ospreay (NEW CHAMPION)
- IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match – Tetsuya Naito b. Jay White (NEW CHAMPION)
- IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match – Kazuchika Okada b. Kota Ibushi
Here are our 5 Takeaways from NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 Night 1:
Jyushin ‘Thunder’ Liger Receives Thunderous Reception for 1st Retirement Bout
The iconic career of one of Japan’s biggest stars will be coming to an end this weekend. Jyushin ‘Thunder’ Liger joined fellow legends Tatsumi Fujinami, The Great Sasuke and Tiger Mask to open Wrestle Kingdom this year. The reaction for Liger entering the Dome for the second to last time was thunderous and the crowd remained solidly behind the Juniors division pioneer throughout. The build-up to Liger’s final moments through 2019 saw bouts against the likes of Minoru Suzuki; with even the classic ‘Kishin’ Liger making an appearance.
Liger would eventually take the loss in the bout, with Ryusuke Taguchi getting the pinfall over the masked performer. Following the match the lineup of Japanese wrestling legends would stand hand in hand with Liger to soak up the applause from the Tokyo Dome faithful.
Jyushin Liger will be heading into his final ever match in a New Japan ring tomorrow night when he teams up with Naoki Sano to take on Ryu Lee and Hiromu Takahashi.
The 8 Man Tag Matches Didn’t Feel ‘Big Enough’ For Wrestle Kingdom
As previously mentioned Wrestle Kingdom is arguably one of the biggest nights of professional wrestling for any fan. The annual event is lauded for incredible in-ring action and the culmination of storylines throughout the previous year. Including seeing the G1 winner get their shot at the IWGP Championship. The multi-man tag match format in New Japan is nothing new; you can see a slew of them throughout the ‘Road To’ events scattered throughout the year.
I can understand why the bouts were included on the night, the Liger match felt special, bringing back such legends as Fujinami. The Los Ingobernables vs Suzuki-gun match built to Zack Sabre Jr vs SANADA and the CHAOS vs Bullet Club match did build to Hirooki Goto vs KENTA; but these matches just felt out of place on a Wrestle Kingdom card. They did not detract from the overall experience. But if New Japan opts to have another 2 night event these sort of bouts should take a back seat.
Jon Moxley Will Face Juice Robinson on Night 2
Moxley defeated Lance Archer to recapture the IWGP United States Championship. The pair competed in a Texas DeathMatch that saw Moxley take the win after hitting a Death Rider DDT from the apron to two tables on the outside. Moxley was able to make the 10 count, whilst Archer fell at the last second. Juice Robinson was already confirmed for the winner of this match prior, he himself having won the IWGP Tag Team Championships just one match before, defeating Tama Tonga and Tonga Loa alongside David Finlay.
Will Ospreay and Hiromu Takahashi Elevate The Juniors Division (again)
In what was arguably the match of the night, and potentially going to be match of the year, Ospreay and Takahashi went over 20 minutes in an absolute barnburner. Throughout the match Ospreay would work on Takahashi’s previously injured neck, building the Tokyo Dome crowd to an absolute furore. The reaction for Takahashi’s return to the Dome and Wrestle Kingdom garnered the loudest reaction all night. Even eclipsing Tetsuya Naito‘s reception when he appeared to face IWGP Champion Jay White.
With the incredible run that Ospreay had in 2019 and the strong start to this decade there’s a very good chance that ‘The Assassin’ will be at the top of the pile in terms of Wrestler of The Year accolades once again.
Tetsuya Naito vs Kazuchika Okada Will Headline Wrestle Kingdom Night 2
Tetsuya Naito and Kazuchika Okada will compete to determine the first ever ‘Double Gold Dash’ winner and dual IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Champion in New Japan history. Naito and Jay White competed on Night 1 for the Intercontinental Championship, with Naito taking the win and regaining his Championship. Kota Ibushi also challenged Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, with Okada retaining the coveted belt. Both men will now be gunning to become the first ever concurrent IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Champion.
Check back tomorrow for all of the coverage for Night 2 of Wrestle Kingdom 14.