38,162 fans packed into the Tokyo Dome to watch Wrestle Kingdom 13 live, it was broadcast on NJ World and Fite TV. The event was co-main evented by Chris Jericho vs Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship and Kenny Omega vs Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, the only championship not defended was the NEVER 6 Man Championship, where a Number 1 Contender Gauntlet took place in the pre-show.
A couple of announcements were made, the finals of Best of the Super Juniors will be held at Ryogoku, G1 Climax will kick of in the USA, New Japan will hold a show in London at the Copper Box Arena in August and next years Wrestle Kingdom will take place on the 4th and 5th.
No. 1 Contenders Gauntlet Winners: Ryusuke Taguchi, Toru Yano & Togi Makabe. They’ll face the champions tomorrow at Korakuen Hall for New Years Dash.
The opening match was Kota Ibushi vs Will Ospreay, which started pretty rapidly and felt very different to regular NEVER Openweight matches to the point where it almost seemed indulgent. Later on, things improved, Will Ospreay, despite my aversion to him, showed a mean streak and the match became more reminiscent of former NEVER clashes, its closing stretch is where it excelled particularly, a Decapitation Elbow from Ospreay looked to have knocked Ibushi out and he followed it up with an Storm Breaker for the win. The next match was for the IWGP Junior Tag Team Championships as El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru against Roppongi 3K and BUSHI & Shingo Takagi. This match looked good but it was very quick and suffered from its shortness, the main bits of interest were the face off of Shingo Takagi and SHO, Takagi got the win following a Last of the Dragon on SHO, bringing the IWGP Junior Tag Team Championships to L.I.J.
The next match was for the Rev Pro Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship, as Ishii defended against Zack Sabre Jnr. This match also started quick, as much of this mid-card period of the show did, but this seemed more in line with the promos given that ZSJ said he wanted to submit Ishii in 30 seconds, he ultimately would but not in the timeframe that he had originally hoped for, a decent match if you like submission clashes with a bit of grit in between. The second tag triple threat of the evening for the IWGP Tag Team Champions saw SANADA & EVIL looking to go back to back with winning the title at Wrestle Kingdom as they faced champions Guerrilla’s of Destiny and undeserving add-on challengers Young Bucks. This match unlike the Junior went over 10 minutes but for some reason, felt worse to me at least. SANADA did shine as L.I.J added more titles to their ranks after a Moonsault from SANADA onto Matt Jackson to get the win. What followed is arguably the worst match of the card, lot of shite from Cody and Brandi as expected but Juice Robinson thankfully ending it and winning the US Championship after two Pulp Frictions. Again, KUSHIDA and Taiji Ishimori, felt too short, despite doing some interesting work, targetting limbs to weaken their opponents, Ishimori’s finish, the Bloody Cross, looked botched? but I’ve not seen it before or if I have I can’t recall it but it looked awkward, it was enough for another title to change hands as he won the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.
Jay White vs Kazuchika Okada could have went on a lot longer, it was the best built match of the card and it lived up to the hype. Gedo with White following the betrayal last year, Okada getting a measure of revenge by taking both Gedo and White out with a flying cross body on the outside, Gedo would try to interject himself more into the match but it was usually dwarfed by the Rainmaker who came out like the Okada of old, and showed glimpses but White countered everything as he did the Rainmaker into the Bladerunner to get the win. Probably my Match of the Night. The next was a No DQ match for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, it was okay, definitely Jericho’s best contribution in a New Japan ring since his return but should he be this high on the card and going for 22 mins? Possibly not, in my opinion at least. Multiple kick outs of Destino’s and Codebreakers, not fond of finishes looking weak to be honest. A final Destino though as Naito won back the belt he despised. The main event saw Hiroshi Tanahashi face Kenny Omega for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
Tanahashi won the G1 Climax last year to get into this position and given his age it’s probably his last reign. Kenny is likely AEW bound, as all the Elite members had lost, the finish to this match was perhaps telegraphed but it was nonetheless a decent contest and probably Kenny’s best singles match since winning the belt, there instances when I felt like maybe it wasn’t Tana’s night like when Kenny kicked out of High Fly Flow’s but it wasn’t the case as the Ace of the Universe countered and rebuffed all of Omega’s attempts of the One Winged Angel, as the match reached its climax, Tanahashi dug deep, rattled off a Dragon Screw, Sling Blade and went up top for his 3rd or 4th High Fly Flow, the thought that if this don’t hit he won’t win came across my mind, but he connected and the referee counted the pinfall win. Hiroshi Tanahashi is now an eight time IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
The show was a bit disjointed and the undercard was truly underwhelming, if you’re going to watch anything, Jay White vs Okada, Ibushi vs Ospreay, Tanahashi vs Omega and Naito vs Jericho. Happy that it seems like all the Elite are moving on and perhaps their involvement impacted the show, I’m happy with the L.I.J clean sweep and Tanahashi winning but still I don’t feel like it was a great show, especially not worthy of the Wrestle Kingdom mantle.