Phew, how can you top night one?
After an incredible first night of action, New Japan geared up for their finale of expert wrestling with Night Two of Wrestle Kingdom 14.
Jushin Thunder Liger and Naoki Sano vs Hiromu Takahashi and Ryu Lee – Liger’s Retirement Match
Result: Takahashi and Lee win via pinfall
Thoughts: Who cares how the match went? (It was really good). That was NEVER the focus of this. After 3,551 matches, after 36 years… the icon, the legend, and the immortal professional wrestler Jushin Thunder Liger has retired. Having Takahashi pin him was perfect; the current champion of the division that he built, created and perfected was a lovely touch. Getting to share the ring with one of his greatest opponents and friends in Naoki Sano must have been incredible for both men.
There are very few moments like a wrestler retiring but almost nothing could compare to the moment the referee hit his hand to the mat for the three count. Goosebumps took over everyone watching and complete silence enveloped the Tokyo Dome. A true icon of our industry and the wrestling world will be worse without him as an active competitor. Thank you Liger for so, so much.
Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo (c) vs. Roppongi 3K- IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match
Result: Roppongi 3K win via pinfall – New Champions Crowned
Thoughts: I bloody LOVE Sho and Yoh. They’re incredible professional wrestlers and just look like lovely lads to hang around with. And now they hold those tag team belts again which is fantastic to see.
It was kinda surreal, still, seeing El Phantasmo competing on this level of stage and event after seeing him work his way up throughout the indies and now finally make it onto this level of championship match. The match was, as expected, fantastic as all four men are at the top of their game.
The reference to El Phantasmo going for the *cough* ‘low blow’ *cough* but 3K having it scouted with the cup was great storytelling and proof that these teams actually scout each other and learn from previous interactions. Sho and Yoh getting their first win in the Tokyo Dome was an amazing end to a fantastic tag match. Can’t wait to see where both teams go from here.
Zack Sabre Jr. (c) vs. Sanada – Rev Pro Heavyweight Championship Match
Result: ZSJ retains via pinfall
Thoughts: First of all; the promo package of Zack just, essentially, having temper tantrums was a fantastic touch. He’s just the best. The story of this was incredibly simple; who is the best technical wrestler currently operating in New Japan? Both men were convinced it was them and spent the entire bout proving it.
This was just fantastic. I’ve always said I’m a huge Sanada AND Zack Sabre Jr fan and have adored every single one of their matches so far. I’d honestly say this was the best so far. Every hold executed perfectly. Every strike hit with precision. And every loudmouth comment landed expertly.
Zack winning by a quick bridge pinfall after claiming he would ‘definitely’ tap Sanada out was the culmination of months of storytelling that came off so well and you have to think there is no limit to what the ‘King of Sabreism’ could achieve in 2020.
Jon Moxley (c) vs. Juice Robinson – IWGP United States Championship Match
Result: Moxley retains via pinfall
Thoughts: Really solid rubber match between both men. In fact, being honest, it was much more of a fight rather than a wrestling match but after what we just witnessed in the match prior, this was absolutely the right decision. Moxley winning and retaining the United States Championship is certainly very interesting considering his obvious contractual obligations with All Elite Wrestling but I don’t think anyone is complaining.
ESPECIALLY WHEN THE STUFF THAT HAPPENED NEXT HAPPENED. We are actually, in 2020, getting Jon Moxley vs Minoru Suzuki. This is actually a thing that we are getting. It’s going to happen, in some way, in some fashion, in some building – two men are going to go to war. And the entire wrestling world wants to witness that bloodbath. I. Cannot. Wait.
Kenta (c) vs. Hirooki Goto for the NEVER Openweight Championship
Result: Goto wins via pinfall – New Champion Crowned
Thoughts: The slaps man. The bloody slaps. These men wanted to absolutely kill each other and it was clear to see. A really, really hard offence-hitting with, honestly, a pretty surprising result. I didn’t expect KENTA to, already, lose his NEVER Openweight Championship at this stage. But clearly, they’re doing the story of Bullet Club losing every match thus far over the two nights.
Goto really deserves this. A man who is often overlooked due to the sheer and utter talent around him but he’s a fantastic professional wrestler who I feel could have a really great run with this belt – as long as they give him time. Don’t really have that much else to say here but definitely enjoyable.
Jay White vs Kota Ibushi
Result: White wins via pinfall
Thoughts: As I said in my review of Night One, I love Jay White more than most people. I’m not going to go into it again but yeah; I think he’s great. So, surprise surprise; I loved this match more than most.
I loved the subtlety of Jay complaining about getting a visual win the night before and that costing him but then benefitting from it in this match. I, much like against Naito, really enjoyed the simplicity of a face that everyone wanted to see win vs a bad guy everyone wanted to see lose. The constant interference from Gedo added so much (that chair shot into brass knuckles spot was insane) and ensured that, when White did win, it wasn’t legitimate in any way.
Kota losing, when you look at it on the surface, looks confusing. Many could have pictured the Golden Lion winning everything so, after losing both matches in a row many will complain. However, Kota was made to look like an unstoppable machine throughout much of the bout and the finish hugely protected him; it took a chair shot to the head, brass knuckles, a straight jacket 1916 AND a Bladerunner in order to put him down. And then was hit by another after the match. So, I think he’s going to be alright.
I, for one, can’t wait to see what both men do in the upcoming months as both seem to be at a form of crossroads. Very, very intriguing.
Chris Jericho vs Hiroshi Tanahashi
Result: Jericho wins via submission
Thoughts: First of all; Tanahashi dressing up as Jericho in the promo package was genius and I need to see The Ace do more stuff like this. Just amazing. The obvious take away from this is the several hundred references, discussion and light shown onto All Elite Wrestling. We’ve been conditioned, over the last 12 months, to believe New Japan and AEW are not working together. But after this; you’d be forgiven to think otherwise.
The match itself was great; as you’d expect from two legends of this industry. Yes, Chris isn’t at the level he once was purely down to age but he can still absolutely go and, when you’ve got Hiroshi Tanahashi in that ring, it’s always going to be at a certain level. That DDT on the English commentary table was horrible to watch, mind you.
However, there were some incredible moments such as the codebreaker counter into the dragon screw that just reminded you of the level both men are still at. I’m really surprised Tanahashi tapped though. I honestly thought he’d lose but by pinfall, tapping out was a big surprise. This of course means that we won’t be seeing The Ace in AEW for a title shot in the near future but… it may happen sooner than we expected a few months ago.
Kazuchika Okada vs Tetsuya Naito – IWGP Heavyweight Championship and IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match
Result: Naito wins via pinfall – First Double Champion Crowned
Thoughts: It finally happened. After the loss at Wrestle Kingdom 8 and turning heel, to forming Los Ingobernables De Japon and slowly rising back up in the fans’ opinion to defeating the man who he lost to six years ago and finally climbing the top of the mountain; Tetsuya Naito has finally won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and is the first Double Champion in the promotion’s history. And the fans ate it up.
The match was, obviously, exceptional and my personal match of the night. Both men absolutely threw everything they could at it and it more than delivered. It was incredibly interesting to watch Okada working as the de facto heel in this match; constantly going after the already injured knee of Naito that make the fans absolutely furious.
And then… KENTA appeared. Right. I’ve had time to calm down after initially watching this and, whilst I DEFINITELY agree than Naito should have been allowed his moment… it worked perfectly. EVERYONE hates KENTA now. And everyone is universally behind Tetsuya Naito. I want to see L.I.J. absolutely destroy every single member of Bullet Club because of what happened at the end of this show. People are legitimately angry and that’s never a bad thing in this industry as it drives attention and want to see what’s next. A brilliant ending match and moment to a fantastic weekend of wrestling.
I cannot wait to see what New Japan produces in 2020.
You can find me on Twitter @McIverTheMark. Thanks for reading.