Matt Davis steps back into the spotlight with his review and recap of New Japan’s King Of Pro Wrestling!
Welcome to the event everyone has been waiting for since the G1 Climax ended! Annually this show is held in October, and features marquee rivalries coming to ahead as we set the stage for WrestleKingdom. Due to inclimate weather surrounding Typhoon Hagibis, several announced talent were not able to travel to Japan for this show. Due to time constraints of my own I will jumping into the action after the first couple matches with full details and summarizing the openers.
1) El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs SHO & YOH
Originally advertised as a six man tag featuring Zack Sabre Jr, this was turned into a regular tag team match and a preview for next weeks Super Jr Tag League Tournament. El Desperado made his return to NJPW after suffering a broken jaw in May. Suzuki-gun looked like they never missed a beat and picked up the opening win after a Pinche Loco at 10:55
Winners: El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru
Thoughts: Average junior tag match between two experienced teams. There was no doubt Desperado wasn’t winning his return. Let’s see what happens next week in the Super Jr Tag. I think these guys have to be favorites after their dominant run with the Tag Titles last year.
2) Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tomoaki Honma vs Togi Makabe & Toru Yano
“20th Anniversary Hiroshi Tanahashi NJPW Debut Match”
This was a cool match which was the fourth in a series of anniversary matches for The Ace, honoring his longevity and loyalty to the company he helped rejuvinate over a decade ago. Makabe and Toru Yano have been with him along the way in the company, and Honma is a long time tag parter of Togi Makabe, so seeing the four veterans go at it with low stakes was fun. Tanahashi picked up the win after a High Fly Flow on Yano in under 10 minutes.
Winners: Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tomoaki Honma
Thoughts: Nothing wrong with it, nothing special about it either. I’m not a huge fan of Tanahashi at this stage of his career. Other people love him, it’s fine. He hit his spots, was a basic tag with NJPW veterans.
3) Tetsuya Naito & Shingo Takagi vs DOUKI & Taichi
Early heel action by DOUKI and Taichi, because everyone hates Taichi. The feud with Naito and Taichi goes way back, when both were juniors. Taichi upset Naito in the G1 this year. With Takagi moving to the heavyweight division, there was a lot of story here and a proving ground for Taichi and Takagi as they tried to earn a reputation as guys that can “go”. Noshigami got a near fall at the end, but Taichi broke it up. Taichi attacked Shingo with his microphone for the rare disqualification finish in under 9 minutes.
Winners: Tetsuya Naito & Shingo Takagi
Thoughts: So far this card has been extremely dull, and outside some excitement that we had near the end of this, there wasn’t much to it. I wished we got some more story. Disqualifications are extremely rare in New Japan, and it really sucks the finish away. No reason Naito couldn’t have gotte a pin on DOUKI and told the same story. As we head towards WK, I have to wonder if they’re building to Naito vs Taichi.
4) KISHIN Liger vs Minoru Suzuki
This is the match we’ve all been waiting for, and where I will begin reviewing the show. For those who need some background on why the title of this match says “KISHIN” and not “Jyushin”: In October 1996, The Great Muta had ripped off Liger’s mask during a match, but Liger stood up and revealed an all white painted face with red streaks, and white body paint, which was a much more aggressive version of Jushin Liger. He named this character KUSHIN Liger. He used the character again in 2006 in a feud with Bad Boy Hido, and again in 2012 against Taichi. In 2019, Minoru Suzuki assaulted Liger during his 30th anniversary, tearing at his mask, telling Liger he did not want to face Jushin, he wanted KISHIN. On September 22nd, the demonic alternative version of Thunder Liger finally returned, attacking Suzuki with a railroad spike, trainers, young lions, and even Hiroshi Tanahashi. Suzuki got his wish, and the match was made for tonight. Jyushin Thunder Liger will be retiring at WrestleKingdom in 2020, this being one of his final single matches.
Kevin Kelly tells us that this match could be considered a blood feud, dating back 17 years. Kelly tells us that Suzuki beat Liger in an MMA match in 2002, which was Liger’s only MMA match in his career. We are told that tonight Jyushin will be wrestling as Battle Liger tonight, which is a different character than either other character we’ve seen leading up to this match, only seeing it in 2012, and only two other times prior to tonight (against Tiger Mask and in 2002 and Hashimoto in 1994). We are told Liger might kill Minoru Suzuki tonight.
They circle around each other, trying to look for any advantage. Liger spits at Suzuki, and lays down on the mat, taunting Suzuki to wrestle him. Suzuki gets on the mat trying to twist him like a preztler and they square away to cheers. Liger into a drop toe hold but Suzuki blocks into a wristlock early! Suzuki is trying to break Liger’s arm, finally Liger gets to the ropes ad Minoru Suzuki is pissed. He lays flat on his mat now, but feigns out and tries to sweep Liger. Liger mounts now, as Suzuki cradles into a leglock but LIier reverses into a TRIANGLE! Suzulo frantic and backs up and gets a break. Liger refuses to break, as the referees warns him several times before breaking. Dropkick rolls Suzuki under the bottom rope. They begin to brawl outside. OW! Liger launches Suzuki chest first at full speed into the barricade. Liger smashes a chair on the cold steel as the referee stops LIger from using it, and Suzuki boots the chair into Liger now. Suzuki crashes Liger into the barricade now, cracking a chair across his back several times and then in the shoulder!
Suzuki wraps Liger’s arm and shoulder around the barricade and tries to break his arm again. Referee breaks it up, and Suzuki berates and chokes the referee. Suzuki begins tearing at the Battle Liger mask to boos. They stand face to face as Suzuki tries to rip it off again as they exchange slaps and chest strikes. On the apron, Suzuki tries to unmask Liger again, and drapes Liger’s arm across the top rope with a cross armbreaker screaming “IM GOING TO BREAK HIS ARM!” swinging back and forth on the ropes to boos. Liger rolling around in a lot of pain. Suzuki is really targeting the arm here.We are reminded that 7 years ago Suzuki wrestled one of the finest wrestling matches ever at King of Pro Wrestling against Hiroshi Tanahashi, but tonight it will be far from that. Huge headbutt drops Liger, before a hard right hand drops him again. Suzuki tells Liger to get up and stops the referee from counting him down. Liger up and open palm strikes, Suzuki with a boot and Liger collapses against the ropes. In the corner, huge boot by Suzuki, LIger blocks the PK! Running forearm chop across the nose and Suzuko shrugs it off and charges out of the corner! FIGHTING SPIRIT!!
Suzuki with elbows and is caught with a hard clothesline by Liger across the jaw to cheers! Capo Kick! Liger tries the Brainbuster into the rear naked choke! Suzuki doesn’t want it to end as he drops a limp Liger, Liger playing possum into a deep octopus double arm bar! Suzuki screaming in pain as Liger twists the shoulder and arm. He’s screaming “ASK HIM!” Suzuki somersaults out of of the hold into the ropes for a break. Liger with a hard kick on the shoulder he just twisted. Twisting armbreaker! Suzuki blocks, but Liger does it again! Suzuki in tremendous amounts of pain. Liger with a third one- NO BLOCKED INTO THE CHOKE! Liger escapes with a snapmare, and Suzuki holds onto the choke on the mat! Liger is fading… Referee lifts the limp arm twice and Liger gets to his feet. Suzuki teases a Gotch, and Liger blocks as the crowd starting to cheer. Liger back body drop! Lou Thesz Press into a pin for two and Suzuki gets out! VERTICAL DROP BRAINSBUSTERRRRRR!!!!! SUZUKI KICKS OUT!!!! ONE OF THE MOST PROTECTED MOVES IN JAPAN!!!! Suzuki kicked out! Liger signals for the end, and Suzuki with a hard dropkick!! Open palm strikes to a prone Liger who can’t protect himself as he stumbles, but roars back with his own fighting spirit! Crowd erupts! Suzuki slaps his own face! This is insane! Liger with his own chest strikes and slaps! Suzuki stares into Liger’s soul and smiles! Suzuki reponds with lightning fast strikes! Liger drops and stands again to cheers, but stumbles before he can connect with a strike. Liger with a slap! Suzuki says more! Forearm! Slap! Slap! Suzuki wants more! HARD STRIKE BY LIGER! Suzuki elbows Liger flat. Referee checking on Liger. Liger up with strikes and they yell in each others face. As hard as anyone can strike, Liger breaks sweat off Suzuki’s chest with an open palm strike, and Suzuki with a quick elbow strike into the Stalling Gotch Style Piledriver. Suzuki gets three for the win in 18 minutes.
Winner: Minoru Suzuki
Thoughts: I honestly went from super excited about this match to disappointed before the bell rang, as I thought this would be Kishin Liger against Suzuki. Battle Liger still was a good character to use, as they absolutely kicked the crap out of each other here. Big, big difference between what we saw here and Liger’s usual stuff. The crowd loved it, it was reminiscent of older New Japan stuff, and both of them knew that. I can’t believe Suzuki kicked out of the Brainbuster. It’s one of the most protected moves in Japanese wrestling. This match was different for so many reasons, but it wasn’t a epic, so I gave it three stars out of five. Great story, electric atmosphere, great strong style, but it ended a little quicker than I was expecting, and as I mentioned, slightly disappointed that it was Battle Liger and not Kishin.
After the match Minoru Suzuki gets a chair and gets in the ring as the young lions tend on Liger, Suzuki tries to destroy Liger once and for all as he raises the chair above his head, and throws it away. He kneels in front of a prone Liger, and bows down to Liger as the fans erupt with cheers! A moment that this crowd will remember forever. The ultimate form of respect. Suzuki marches away quickly as Liger gets helped to his feet. Liger takes a microphone and says “Suzuki, thank you” and throws the mic down as his music hits for one of the last times. The crowd is chanting “LIGER LIGER” as he walks away.
5) El Phantasmo vs IWGP Jr Champion Will Ospreay
IWGP JR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
El Phantasmo won the Super J Cup in August, eliminating Ospreay in the semi-finals. Phantasmo has been haunting and attacking Ospreay at every corner. After Ospreay and Robbie Eagles couldn’t beat Phantasmo and Ishimori for thr Jr Tag Titles, Ospreay said Phantasmo will never beat him for the Jr Heavyweight Title. We are told ELP was able to make it to the show as he was training in the NJPW Dojo when the typhoon hit as the Doho was flooded and the moved memorabilia upstairs all night protecting the history of New Japan. Kevin Kelly told us Bullet Club will not be at ringside during this match as Phantasmo wanted to prove he could beat Ospreay by himself and clean. Ospreay won the Best of the Super Juniors in June, and won the IWGP Jr Championship at Dominion, but if Phantasmo can win here, he would be the reigning RevPro Cruiserweight Champion, one half of the IWGP Jr Tag Champions, the Super J Cup and British J Cup winner. He could sweep all the junior accolades with a win here.
Ospreay refuses a handshake as they lock up. Against the ropes, ELP breaks and taps Ospreay on the chest. Armdrag into a headlock into a press, snapmare, both men flip around to cheers, monkeyflip, missed clothesline, hurricanrana by ELP, Ospreay misses a roundhouse kick to cheers and ELP backs up. Ospreay says he was inches away from winning. Ospreay again refuses a handshake. ELP wants a test of strength and Ospreay accepts as they clash together. ELP forces down Ospreay at first but he fights back and drives ELP down into a bridge. They exchange rolls and flips into a double pin. Both escape into mirror bridges, eyes locked. ELP with a slap in the bridge. Both men up and The Aerial Assassin with his own slap! ELP with a knife edged chop! Ospreay with his own and ELP drops! They exchange forearms and ELP stumbles. Ospreay is fighting for his life, as they come to blows. Ospreay accuses ELP of hitting him in the eye as he drops down. ELP says it was an accident and offers his hand and respectfully lifts Ospreay to his feet to cheers before driving Ospreay throat first in the corner to boos! ELP blocks a forearm, and walks the ropes launching Ospreay outside. Handspring into the ropes, backflip into the superhero pose mocking Ospreay!
Ospreay with a quick Pip Pip Cheerio! HANDSPRING BACK FLIP MOONSAULT OVER THE TOP ROPE! Ospreay drags ELP around ringside to cheers. Ospreay tosses ELP into the crowd!! WOW! He tossed him over ten feet into the commentary teams. Phantasmo with a chair shot out of no where! He says “Whoops” (hahahahah). They’re brawling in the crowd now. Commentary is limited. Phantasmo climbs into a stairwell, as Ospreay meets him on the other side. They’re standing ten feet above concrete. Both of them teetering, Ospreay flips but fights back. OSPREAY TEASES THE STORMBREAKER BUT ELP BLOCKS! Ospreay slips and falls down to the walk way below. SUICIDE CROSSBODY DIVE TO THE FLOOR BY EL PHANTASMO!!!!!! ELP drags Ospreay back to ringside and is in complete control.
Cover in the ring, and Ospreay barely kicks out. ELP sends Ospreay chest into the opposite corner and rakes his back. Ospreay put in the tree of woe. Dropkick to the face! Phantasmo fakes another one and drops a boot in the groin. As Phantasmo poses, Ospreay lifts himself up ad nails a german suplex while in the tree of woe! HARD KNIFE EDGE CHOP in the corner by Ospreay! Ospreay blocks a springboard strike with a dropkick to the chest! Twisting handspring kick to the face! Ospreay poses on the corner, misses a moonsault, misses a standing moonsault, nails a standing shooting star, and a second rope moonsault for two! Ospreay tries a Stormbreaker but ELP blocks. Ospreay signals for the Hidden Blade but ELP blocks. They dodge attacks and ELP with an enzuguiri in the corner! Phantasmo with a Frankensteiner and OSPREAY LANDS ON HIS FEET! ELP escapes the dragonsuplex, ducks the hook kick, step up enzo by ELP! Ospreay blocks a move into a cutter, ELP blocks the OsCutter into a reverse airplane spin! Both me down!
On the apron, El Phantasmo in control, Ospreay blocks the CRII as both men fight on the apron. Ospreay blocks the CRII again, and knocks ELP silly with a roundhouse kick! OS CUTTER TO THE OUTSIDE!!! Both men down as the count begins. Ospreay in at 11, ELP in at 19.98! COAST TO COAST BY OSPREAY! SHOOTING STAR PRESS! Phantasmo kicked out at two and a half! Robinson Special connects! OS CUTTERRRRR!!!! Hooks the leg and Taiji Ishimori pulls the referee out to a lot of boos! Ishimori grabs the IWGP Jr Championship, but Robbie Eagles makes the save and destroys Ishimori with a cannonball through the ropes and drags Ishimori to the back!
ELP grabs the IWGP Jr Championship now, ELP swings, Ospreay ducks, HOOK KICK! ELP is done! HIDDE BLADE MISSES! LOW BLOW BY ELP! Shot with the title to the face! He throws the title outside. ELP to the top, diving splash! Ospreay out at two! Cheeky Nando kick by ELP mocking Ospreay using his own move. Both men up top now. ELP with a spinning reverse fireman carry! Ospreay kicks out again! ELP tries the CRII. Ospreay blocks, BUT ELP NAILS THE STYLES CLASH!!!! OSPREAY KICKS OUT!! V TRIGGER BY ELP! Ospreay reverses the One Winged Angel into a cradle! Kickout! SUPERKICK BY ELP! SPANISH FLY BY Ospreay and both men down!
They’re exchanging blows in the middle of the ring as both men exhausted. They’re empting all they have. ROUNDHOUSE! Forearm! HOOK KICK! ELP is dazed! ROUNDHOUSE! ELP drops to his knees! CANADIAN DESTROYER DDT SPIKES ELP! Ospreay covers and Phantasmo kicks out! Ospreay to the top rope to cheers. Phantasmo kicks the referee into the ropes and Ospreay crumbles. Ospreay blocks the Super CRII on the top rope. Headbutt by ELP! OSPREAY BLOCKS THE SUPER FRANKENSTEINER WITH A POWERBOMB!!!!! Ospreay pulls the elbow pad down…. HIDDEN BLADE! ELP HEAD FELL OFF HIS SHOULDERS! STORMBREAKER! WIN! 28 minutes
Winner AND STILL IWGP Jr Champion: Will Ospreay
Thoughts: You ever watch a match and know you’re watching a breakout match for someone? Think Kenny Omega against KUSHIDA at Dominion 2015, you knew Omega was going to be special soon. This match was that moment for El Phantasmo. Several iconic moments, the suicide crossbody into the walkway was absolutely insane. You don’t see that too much in Japan, and haven’t in a major professional wrestling promotion in a while. They brought out tributes to multiple famous junior heavyweights through wrestling history. The Hidden Blade at the end was brutal. I really don’t like matches that get dirty, but the very minor interference and cheating didn’t affect this match in the least bit, so it’s okay. What a great match between two guys who work so well together. Ospreay’s offense is just so crisp and devestating. His striking ability is unlike anyone else in wrestling. Not KENTA, not Shibata, not Ibushi, no one can compare to how fast he can strike. The Roundhouse near the end was one of the stiffest shots I’ve ever seen, clean on the ear. Really fun stuff.
6) “CHAOS” Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, & YOSHI-HASHI vs “Bullet Club” Jay White, KENTA, Yujiro Takahashi
This is going to be another quick review, as six man tag matches are often dull affairs, with some stories, but not much consequence. Not sure why this match wasn’t fourth on the card. If anything, a true definition of a crowd break match. Jay White defeated Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Championship at Destruction in Kobe on September 22nd, so Bullet Club has some gold around their waists here (coming up short of another in the previous match).
KENTA dominated most of the match, after beating Ishii for the NEVER Open Championship at Royal Quest, KENTA looks to prove a statement to CHAOS and future NEVER Openweight challengers, but it was Hirooki Goto who laid claim to an opportunity as he pinned Yujiro Takahashi with the GTR as KENTA and Jay White looked on in 12 minutes.
Winners: Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, & YOSHI-HASHI
Thoughts: Average six man tag between two groups of upper mid card guys. You get the usual Bullet Club/Jay White dirty stuff, and KENTA being a prick, but the fans went home happy with this one as Yujiro Takahashi ate the pin. Killed the flow of the show having this here, even if it involves some of the bigger names in the company.
7) Lance Archer vs Juice Robinson
IWGP UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP [vacant]
This match was supposed to be Jon Moxley against Juice Robinson but Moxley could not travel to Japan due to the typhoon. This match was made instead. Lance Archer stepped into this opportunity due to a strong showing in G1 and the Fighting Spirit Tour. Juice Robinson is a former 2 time IWGP US Champion. Lance Archer is a former 3 time IWGP Tag Team Champion, former 4 time NWA Tag Team Champion (2 with Davey Boy Smith and 2 with Kid Kash), former 2 time GHC Tag Team Champion in NOAH, but he’s never held singles gold in a major promotion. Jon Moxley has now missed AEW’s All Out and NJPW’s King of Pro Wrestling in six weeks time for various reasons.
Archer starts trying a chokeslam, Juice a low blow and with an inside cradle for two! Juice with a spear to the outside! Juice immediately grabs a chair and drives it into Archer’s ribs and back! Juice throws Archer full speed into the barricade!! He posts him! Archer down! Juice tries a cannonball but Archer with a big boot on the outside! Juice blocks a chokeslam, but Archer gets it a second time through a table in the crowd! Archer with a steel chair across the back and holds the US Championship up to cheers. Archer tears off the turnbuckle pads in all the corners as this match is about to get dangerous.
Archer gets a chair and threatens the referee as Juice is still crawling around outside. Archer takes chairs and sticks them between the turnbuckles. He assaults Juice one more time for good measure. Archer gets another table and slides it in the ring as Archer is creating his own Murder House now. EVERYBODY DIES as he assaults the Young Lions at ringside. He puts the tables in the corners that don’t have chairs. Archer throws Juice face first into one of the chairs. Juice Robinson dislocated one of his fingers as he looks to be in a bit of pain, showing the finger to the camera. Archer sends Juice into the second chair, and tries a pin but Juice kicks out. Juice’s nose is now busted open as well. Archer grabs Juice’s arm and walks the top rope half way around the entire ring. Juice finally trips him up to cheers. Juice with a headbutt. Robinson tries a superplex and drops Archer back first!! Juice tries a pin and Archer kicks out! Juice with the Dizzy Jabs! Juice tries Left Hand of God, Archer blocks, RIGHT JAB! LEFT HAND OF GOD CONNECTS! Cannonball through the table! Juice with a pin and Archer kicks out.
Juice plays the crowd, Archer reverses Pulp Friction, POUNCE THROUGH THE TABLE IN THE CORNER! Both men down and dazed. Archer rolls outside and goes under the ring looking for more destruction. Juice is outside throwing chairs in the ring on the other side. Archer is getting more chairs. Both in the ring with chairs, Archer misses a swing, Juice misses, Archer with a right hand through the chair into Juice’s face! Juice is flat out! Chokeslam reversed. EBD CLAW! NO JUICE REVERSES INTO THE JUICEBOX! Hooks the leg and Archer kicks out! Juice is stacking chairs in the middle of the ring. Juice sets Archer and tries Pulp Friction, reversed into a Chokeslam onto the pile of chairs!! Archer piles them back together and grabs Juice as he teases the Blackout off the top through the chairs… MURDER HOUSE OPEN FOR BUSINESS!! Archer pins and JUICE KICKS OUT!!!!! Archer slamming Juice’s head into the chairs. EBD CLAW! Three count in the middle of the ring and we have a new IWGP US CHAMPION in 15 minutes!! Lance Archer has done it! WOW! What a upset!
Winner AND NEW IWGP US CHAMPION: Lance Archer
Thoughts: For a impromptu brawl, this was fun. There was a lot of destruction, several tables went kaboom, several chairs were destroyed, and Juice’s finger and face also had better days. Juice wrestled with a dislocated finger most of a match against an opponent he wasn’t planning on facing. Gritty performance for Juice here. Archer gets a great moment as he has arrived in Japan as a singles star.
8) Kota Ibushi vs EVIL
TOYKO DOME CONTRACT MATCH
Kota Ibushi defeated Jay White in the finals of the G1 on August 12th, guaranteeing an opportunity to face the IWGP Champion at WrestleKingdom. He must defend that opportunity here against who many regard as the spiritual successor to big brawlers like Masahiro Chono and Hiroyoshi Tenzan in New Japan; “The King of Darkness” EVIL.
EVIL attacks at the bell trying to gain an immediate upper hand to head to the Toyko Dome. EVIL with a strong side headlock early on, wearing down Kota. Kota tries to fight out but EVIL locks it in tighter and harder. Ibushi finally escapes, EVIL with a strong shoulder tackle, Ibushi kips up, and EVIL with another side headlock, dragging this one to the mat. Ibushi up, strikes and kicks EVIL hard. He follows up with multiple mid kicks. EVIL blocks another and drives Ibushi upside down over the top rope with a clothesline! Ibushi back first into the ringside barricade crashing in hard! EVIL with a receipt!
EVIL in control in the ring, swinging neckbreaker and Kota kicks out at one easily. EVIL with knee in the back, angling pressure betwee the shoulder blades but Ibushi powers out but EVIL with a double wrist lock and Ibushi can’t escape. Ibushi tries to leverage. He finally outpowers, and EVIL reverses again, dropping Ibushi to the mat, driving the knee in deep. Ibushi with a desperation mid kick! Martial art kick combo, powerslam, into the moonsault and EVIL kicks out! They exchange tie ups, Ibushi misses a springboard kick, and EVIL ties Ibushi in the corner and drives Ibushi into the mat with a stomp to the heart. EVIL tries a bronco buster, and Ibushi counters into his own double stomp! On the apron, EVIL counters a deadlift german ito a cutter across the top rope! EVIL down outside, Ibushi down inside. EVIL wraps a chair around Ibushi’s head and hits a homerun! Its gone! EVIL crushes Ibushi i the corner and is in complete control. Superplex by EVIL, and Ibushi kicks out at two and a half!
EVIL dodges a dropkick at the 10 minute mark, and EVIL stalks the G1 winner, tries a misdirection lariat, but Ibushi with a headscissors! Both men on the top rope, EVIL with a devestating headbutt, but Ibushi with a springboard hurricanrana off the top! Two count! EVIL blocks the Kamigoye. German suplex by EVIL but Ibushi lands on his feet! Both men try hard forearms and are blocked! LARIATTTTTTTTTTTTT BY EVIL! HOOKS THE LEG! KICK OUT!! EVIL connects with Darkness Falls, Ibushi kicks out! Ibushi reverses Everything Is Evil into a roll up, two! KOTA IBUSHI WITH A BASTARD DRIVER!!!! Ibushi can’t make the cover. LAST RIDE! EVIL kicks out at 2.9! SO CLOSE! Shinsuke Nakamura tribute, LARIAT KILLS IBUSHI DEAD ON HIS FEET TURNING HIM INSIDE OUT!! Both men down! PUMPING BOMBER CONNECTS! EVIL hooks the leg, Ibushi kicks out! IBushi blocks Everything Is Evil, wristlock, waistlock briding german! EVIL rolls through, Kamigoye blocked! Half and half suplex by EVIL! Another half and half suplex! EVIL can’t get the pin… The rug was pulled out from Ibushi as he thought he had it won. LARIAT BY KOTA IBUSHI!!! EVIL flips inside out! Kamigoye reversed into Everything Is Evil but Kota blocks, tries a standing Kamigoye, EVIL WITH A HEADBUTT! Kota with a headbutt! High kick! Jumping Knee, KAMIGOYE! EVIL KICKED OUT!!!!!! EVIL KICKED OUT!!! KAMIGOYE AGAIN! That’s it at 24 minutes.
Winner: Kota Ibushi
Thoughts: This match started so unbelievably slow, it was grueling, but the second half was worth the wait. The winner was basically undeniable, I don’t think we will ever see a G1 winner dropping the contract at King of Pro Wrestling, but if they can give us matches like this, that’s perfectly fine. EVIL dominated this match, one of his best matches of all time. His thunderous powerful offense has begun to find its spot here in New Japan and the crowd just loves him. Ibushi played the come from behind guy well, hitting several quality spots. The last three minutes is just so crisp and exciting.
9) SANADA vs IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada
IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
This is the seventh singles meeting between these two, with Okada holding a 5-1 all time record against SANADA, but that one loss is what led to this title match, with SANADA all but eliminating Okada from the G1 (after a 6-0 start) with his upset victory over The Rainmaker. The IWGP Championship has not changed hands at KIng of Pro Wrestling since 2014, when Hiroshi Tanahashi beat AJ Styles.
Okada tries to start off hot with a shotgun dropkick but SANADA side steps, both men with bombs right away. SANADA dodges the Dropkick multiple times. SANADA to the top with the Muta Moonsault but misses, Rainmaker misses, Skull End escaped, and both men miss dropkicks as they square away.
Okada tries a waistlock but SANADA controls and gets up. SANADA with a slow pace, trying to gain any advatage. Okada reverses into a wristlock and SANADA reverses into a backlock, headlock by SANADA, both men against the ropes. Okada teases a strike and taps SANADA’s chest. Hard shoulderblock by Okada knocking SANADA off his feet. Slow neckbreaker by Okada, pins, and SANADA kicks out. Okada with a chinlock and SANADA gets to the ropes, dropkick to the ear knocks the challenger outside, and Okada follows. They exchange blows outside the ring. SANADA back first ito the barricade ad boots SANADA into the crowd! Draping DDT and SANADA reverses, twisting suplex off the barricade face first into the floor! SANADA with a fireman carry dropping Okada rib first on the barricade. Okada rolls in at 17. SANADA pins and gets two. Hard crushing back elbow in the corner by SANADA, snapmare into a pin press and gets two. Headlock by SANADA trying to weaken and drain the life from the champion. Okada blocks a splash with a boot, both men exchange maneuvers, SANADA misses the standing moonsault and Okada with an uppercut and both men down…
Okada kips up first, running forearm, forearm, ducks clotheslines, and drops SANADA with a hooking clothesline of his own! Thumping collison in the corner, SPIKING DDT by Okada, into the cover and SANADA kicks out at two. SANADA Flair flops to the apron, but Okada dropkicks him off the apron to the floor into the barricade. SANADA again into the barricade and again with a boot into the crowd. Okada HIGH SPEED DIVING CROSSBODY OVER THE BARRICADE SENDING SANADA INTO THE CROWD!!! Referee starts to count SANADA out… Okada stops the referee from counting SANADA out at 17 as SANADA stumbles into the ring and collapses at Okada’s feet. A hard right forearm drops SANADA. SANADA to his feet trying to fight back but OKada is just too much dropping SANADA again, followed by a powerslam. Okada to the top rope, SANADA up and leapfrogs Okada into a Dropkick! Springboard suicide splash to the floor byh SANADA as the crowd chanting and cheering for the challenger. SANADA plays up the crowd walking around the ring..
SANADA rolls Okada under the bottom rope and gets Okada in the Paradise Lock to cheers! SANADA plays up the crowd who loves is, SANADA sets and dropkicks the quad, freeing Okada, into the pin for two. Both men exchange counters, SANADA misses the moonsault prelude to Skull End, Shotgun Dropkick sends SANADA into the corner! Okada climbs to the top rope.. MISSILE SHOTGUN DROPKICK FROM THE TOP! Powerslam and Okada back to the top rope. Diving elbowsmash! RAINMAKKKKKKEERRRRRRR POSE!!!!!!!! SANADA ducks the Rainmaker into Skull End, Okada escapes, back into Skull End, cradle for two by Okada, SANADA tries a TKO, Okada escapes, Skull End! Okada reverses into a tombstone attempt but SANADA reverses and drops the champion with a spiking tombstone! TKO! Lateral press pin and two and a half! SANADA locks in the Bodyscissor Skull End in the middle of the ring. Okada trying to flail but SANADA trying to drain the life from Okada. Okada slowly fading… Okada slips out but SANADA locks it back in!! Okada is worse for wear, Okada going limp. Okada slips out again, trying to get to the ropes, but SANADA LOCKS IT IN A FULL BODYSCISSORS! NOT TODAY! SANADA YANKS BACK! This match should be over! Okadas’ eyes are fading. Referee checking on Okada. One hand up and down. Two hands up… Okada fights out into a roll up! Two! SANADA continues the ground mount, maintaining arm control. Okada blocks Skull End. OKada trying for leverage, SANADA trying for SKull End, flips and RAINMAKER!!!!!!! Okada took a few extra moments before trying a pin and SANADA kicked out!
Both men on their knees giving each other their all as we approach the 30 minute mark.. SANADA with hard forearms. Okada with an elbow. SANADA with a strike, Both men up. Okada with a hard forearm to the chin. Forearm by SANADA! Back and forth! Faster and harder! Uppercut by Okada! SANADA with an uppercut of his own. Okada with an uppercut. SANADA stumbles Okada with a uppercut! Okada with another! SANADA responds! Okada drops to the mat! Okada ducks a rolling elbow, SANADA ducks Rainmaker, Okada reverses Skull End into his own! Dropkick to back of the head! DROPKICK OFF THE ROPES! SANADA ducks Rainmaker, cutter out of the corner into the SKULL END! Okada fading! His arm dropping limp. SANADA spins the champion and drops in the hooks! Okada looks out! His eyes are grey! SANADA rolls Okada away from the ropes! Referee checking on Okada….. is he out? Okada eyes are closed. Referee asking Okada if he’s still with us. Referee checks the hand… Okada waving a fourth of a inch in a circle. SANADA tries a cover and OKADA KICKS OUT! MUTO MOONSAULT!!!!!! TRIES ANOTHER AND OKADA GETS THE KNEES UP! Both me down! SANADA could have gone to WrestleKingdom right there but he wanted to send a message and paid the price! Okada is out, stumbling around, barely able to grab the ropes, dazed. SANADA first to his feet as the crowd erupts. Okada with a defensive desperation boot, Moonsault into Skull End! Okada reverses into his own Skull End, TOMBSTONE! RAINMAKER BLOCKED WITH A BOOT! Rainmaker ducked! O’connor roll and the crowd is going crazy! TWO! ONLY TWO! RAINMAKER DUCKED! Tombstone reversed into Skull END! SANNADA SPINS THE CHAMPION AROUND, Okada armdrags out! Dropkick at the 35 minute mark! Rainmaker ducked, Okada ducks SANADA’s Rainmaker, popup dropkick! ROLLING ELBOW BY SANADA! OKada blocks the twisting cutter into the tombstone but SANADA tries to choke him, Michinoku Driver by OKada RAINMAKERRRRRRRRRRR GETS THREE! And still IWGP CHAMPION AT 37 MINUTES KAZUCHIKA OKADA!
Winner AND STILL IWGP Champion: Kazuchika Okada
Thoughts: They were testing the waters here, this was a fantastic match that told an awesome story. For all intents ad purposes if we were grading points, SANADA would be our new champion after this, after countering everything Okada had at every step of the way, completely draining him not once but twice with Skull End. But it wasn’t enough, and the Rainmaker finally connected for the successful defense as we look forward to Kazuchika Okada vs Kota Ibushi. Honestly, I’m not looking forward to that and I don’t think Ibushi will win. I would really love to see these two at it. I loved their New Japan Cup match, I loved their G1 match, and I loved this match. SANADA is often criticized for sandbagging matches, but Okada brings the best out of him. I think we saw the dawning of SANADA here and I think he will win G1 in 2020. Okada is still our champ, SANADA won our hearts and minds.
Overall Show Grade: 6/10
Overall Show Thoughts: King of Pro Wrestling is often regarded as a premier event, citing Minoru Suzuki/Tanahashi in 2012, and Tanahashi/Okada in 2013 as examples of some of the best matches in the modern era, in wrestling period both taking place at this event. Tonight had some amazing matches, but it also had it’s fair share of clunkers. All the tags were less than special, really not moving the meter much.
Top 5 Stars:
2) Minoru Suzuki/Jyushin Liger
3) El Phantasmo
4) Will Ospreay
5) Kazuchika Okada