New Japan Pro Wrestling had their yearly equivalent of WrestleMania this past Friday; WrestleKingdom 13 taking place in the Tokyo Dome.
It was, as expected, a fantastic show with three legitimate Match of the Year contenders taking place. But the all important question is; what’s next from the promotion? Well, not only did this show excel from a work-rate standpoint- it taught us what’s in store for the Japanese promotion in 2019.
1. Bone Soldier is a force to be reckoned with
One of the sleeper hits of the show was the, then, IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion KUSHIDA going up against Bullet Club’s newest member- The Bone Soldier, Taiji Ishimori. The match was the first sighting of Ishimori for many people it seems and he, as many fans of his expected, more than impressed. His crisp offence, nimble feet and intensity more than earned him his win. With all the rumours circulating about KUSHIDA leaving to go to WWE; it is more than clear that New Japan’s Junior division is now controlled by a man with enough force to kick your head off before you’ve even realised.
2. Ospreay has a changed perspective
When Ospreay vs Ibushi for the NEVER Openweight Championship was announced to be opening the show at WrestleKingdom; the internet collectively lost their minds. New Japan shows tend to be a slow build; so tag matches/lower stakes matches start the card with the show ending with all the heavy hitters. So it was a nice change of pace to have one of the most anticipated bouts to kick us off. As I mentioned in my review of the show; this was incredible as expected but the finish had some controversy around it. Will hit Kota with his stiff as hell elbow to the side of Ibushi’s head and Kota went completely limp. After Ospreay won with the Stormbreaker; Kota was stretchered to the back. Unaware if this was a worked stretcher spot; the internet was understandably worried about Ibushi (since then, it has been revealed it was not a work but thankfully, Kota is relatively OK after suffering a minor concussion). Ospreay, on Twitter, then played up to it by announcing- after fans were complaining his style was too dangerous and was shortening his career- that he is going to short other’s careers instead. VERY interested to see what is next for the Aerial Assassin.
3. The Elite are going
— The Young Bucks (@MattJackson13) January 5, 2019
One of the biggest intrigues going into WrestleKingdom was how The Elite (Hangman Page, Marty Scurll, The Young Bucks, Cody and Brandi Rhodes and Kenny Omega) were going to fair in their respective matches after the announcement they were all, apart from Marty, going to be starting their own promotion named All Elite Wrestling or moving on to pastures new. The answer? Every man lost their match. Page and Scurll were defeated by Taguchi and the Most Violent Players on the pre-show, The Bucks lost to Evil and Sanada, Cody lost to Juice Robinson and Kenny lost to Tanahashi in the main event. This looks like it’s the end, for now, for the majority of The Elite in New Japan and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for them.
4. The Future is Switchblade
Jay White looks primed for the biggest 2019 out of anyone in New Japan Pro Wrestling. His match on the night against Okada was met with, pretty much, universal praise and touted as one of the best matches of the show (in my opinion, the second best). White is now the leader of Bullet Club and, at New Year’s Dash the next night at Korakuen Hall, made his feelings known that he wishes to challenge Tanahashi for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. The fact that he defeated Okada clean speaks absolute volumes about how invested Gedo and the company in general is in the young New Zealand born star and it is clear; he has no ceiling above him.
5. The Ace still has it
Tanahashi continues to astound and impress even into his mid-40’s at this stage. The man who championed and guided New Japan away from the brink in the mid-2000’s; he became the first man to win the title in the main event of Wrestle-Kingdom since…he did it at Wrestle-Kingdom 5. That’s how incredible he is. He broke an eight year record that HE himself created. His match with Omega was absolutely fantastic- in my opinion one of the best matches in years- and was topped off by an emotional speech paying homage to his life-long friend Shibata. Some complain that Tanahashi is still at the top of the card in New Japan but when he, at aged 42, is putting on five-star classics; how can you NOT say he should be right at the top? Although I wanted Omega to retain- I don’t think anymore could bemoan that result. Where does he go from here? Well, as previously mentioned, SwitchBlade Jay White looks to be on the horizon but there is also Okada again, Naito, Suzuki if he wishes to challenge him. A whole host of challengers await but for now…Go Ace.