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Wrestle Respawn – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 13

It’s once again that time of year for New Japan Pro Wrestling’s annual big event, in the form of Wrestle Kingdom 13. Normally this event is renowned for having some of the best matches of the year, and with a co main event of Chris Jericho Vs Tetsuya Naito and Kenny Omega Vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, there’s a good chance the match of the year could be on this show.

The event is emanating from the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan on the 4th of January 2019

Calling the action are Kevin Kelly, Don Callis and Chris Charlton

Opening Match
NEVER Openweight Title
Champion: Kota Ibushi Vs Will Ospreay

We’re kicking things off this year with two of wrestling’s best high flyers. Ibushi competed in the first WWE Cruiserweight Classic, whilst Ospreay has been a big part of PROGRESS and Rev Pro in the UK, whilst also making a name for himself in Japan.  To the surprise of no one, they start out quickly, with a series of counters that ends in a standoff. Doing full play by play for two wrestlers this athletic and fast paced may be a tad difficult if I’m being honest.

Ibushi goes for a moonsault to the outside of the ring, but Ospreay catches him with a kick on the way down and then follows with a Space Flying Tiger Drop to the outside. Ospreay controls things back in the ring, looking notably bigger than he has in the past. He carries the extra weight well actually and looks pretty hench, maybe we’ll see him move to heavyweight this year? ibushi fights back and gets a rana to send Ospreay outside, where he follows with a twisting moonsault.

Back inside, Ibushi goes for a school boy and then hurks Ospreay up from that position into a suplex for two. That was a pretty amazing feat of strength! Ospreay replies by hitting a handspring rolling kick and both men are down. Ibushi tries going up top for a moonsault, but Ospreay catches him with a kick to put a stop to that. Both men trade strikes, which goes Ibushi’s way, and the two men then trade powerbomb counters, which ends with Ospreay delivering a C4 to Ibushi. Now we’re talking!

Ospreay tries for the Storm Breaker (Underhook suplex into a slam to the side) but Ibushi counters with a rana and then leaves Ospreay glassy eyed following a knee strike. Ibushi now delivers a big Last Ride powerbomb, but Ospreay is able to kick out at two. Ibushi tries going up again, but Ospreay clips him and he ends up in the Tree of Woe, where Ospreay kicks away at him. Ospreay tries for the Storm Breaker from the top rope, but Ibushi fights him off and then stomps on the back of his head from the top rope.

Ibushi tries to German Suplex Ospreay in to the ring from the apron, but Ospreay lands on his feet in a cool counter. Ospreay gets a spin kick to a down Ibushi and goes for the Oscutter, but Ibushi blocks it and delivers a straightjacket suplex for two. Ibushi goes for a knee strike, but Ospreay is able to dodge it and hits a BIG lariat. Ospreay tries for the Storm Breaker again, but Ibishi counters it into a tombstone piledriver for two. Wow, this is turning into a pretty wild opener! Ospreay seemingly knocks Ibushi out with a big back elbow smash and then finally manages to successfully deliver the Storm Breaker to pick up the win and the title.

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: WILL OSPREAY
RATING: ****

Rather than go all out for a great match here, both men worked their spot on the card and didn’t try to overdo it. The result was an excellent opener than built well and was more about both men being tough and stoic, rather than who could do the biggest and best flip.

Following the match, Ibushi does a stretcher job to get over Ospreay’s devastating finishing move.

Match Two
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles
Champions: El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru Vs Sho and Yo w/ Rocky Romero Vs Shingo and BUSHI

The junior heavyweight division is what New Japan calls their Cruiserweight division, although the weight limit in Japan is 220 pounds and not 205 like it is in WWE. This match makes me feel old, as I can remember Kanemaru having a classic match with the legendary Jushin Thunder Liger at the Tokyo Dome all the way back in the summer of 2004. That seems like a lifetime ago. Desperado and Kanemaru are clear heels in this match, whereas the other teams are better liked.

Sho and Yo clear the ring to start and hit dives onto Shingo and BUSHI, but the champs catch them when they come back into the ring and work them over. After getting beaten up for a bit, Yo makes the tag to Sho, who runs wild on everyone, only to end up on the wrong side of an enziguri from BUSHI. Shingo forces a tag from Kanemaru and comes in to hammer away on Sho to a big reaction from the crowd.

I’m actually quite happy for Shingo. I’ve always liked his work in the ring and I’m glad he’s getting a chance to wrestle for New Japan these days.  The match starts getting out of hand now, with everyone hitting moves on everyone else. Sho and Yo unleash a series of double team moves onto everyone, but Shingo lays them out whilst their attention is on BUSHI and Kanemaru. Shingo hits Sho with a death valley driver like move called “Last of the Dragon”, and this is enough for the pin.

WINNERS AND NEW CHAMPIONS: SHINGO AND BUSHI
RATING: **

Just a collection of spots really, with no real story to it. BUSHI and Shingo barely featured in it, and they ended up winning!

Match Three
Rev Pro British Title
Champion: Tomohiro Ishii Vs Zack Sabre Jr w/ TAKA Michinoku

Ishii is known as “The Stone Pitbull” and is highly respected for being a double tough wrestler who can take a ridiculous amount of punishment and still keep fighting. ZSJ is a superb technical wrestler who specialises in tying his opponents up in knots. He’s also known for being an arrogant jerk, and plays the character to the hilt. TAKA cuts a promo pre-match, declaring it Zack Sabre Time, and saying that Ishii will tap out tonight.

Ishii hits a back suplex to start but ZSJ goes right to an arm bar in response, which Ishii breaks by reaching the ropes. ZSJ targets the right arm of Ishii with kicks and holds in usual vicious manner. I love watching ZSJ break someone down like that, there isn’t anyone better at it currently in wrestling in my opinion. ZSJ makes his usual mistake of getting cocky however, which allows Ishii to apply an ankle lock before running ZSJ down with a shoulder barge.

Ishii hits some big chops and no sells a resulting big boot from ZSJ. ZSJ tries a guillotine choke next, but Ishii flings him off in a great show of strength. Ishii hits a big suplex from the second rope, but ZSJ holds on and attacks the arm. That was utterly superb! ZSJ stays on the arm now, going for numerous different holds. An amazing World of Sport style counter sequence ends up with ZSJ going to an octopus hold. I imagine wrestling ZSJ is not unlike fighting an actual octopus.

ZSJ looks to finish things with the Zack Driver, but Ishii is able to block it before delivering a big powerbomb to ZSJ for two. Ishii decides to go route one by delivering a head butt and then adding a big lariat for two. ZSJ manages to get a pinning hold for two and follows that up with a guillotine. Ishii doesn’t tap in the guillotine, so ZSJ transitions into an octopus style hold that traps both of Ishii’s arms. With Ishii trapped in the hold with no way of getting out, the referee stops the match and awards the victory to ZSJ.

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: ZACK SABRE JR
RATING: ****

I’m not surprised the referee stopped that, the move looked excruciating! This was great stuff from ZSJ, as the man must have anaconda DNA in his genes to be such a grappling master. RPW owner Andy Quildan presents ZSJ with a new flashier looking version of the RPW Title. ZSJ winning means he must be working quite a bit for Rev Pro this year, which can only be a good thing for UK based wrestling fans!

Match Four
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles
Champions: Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa) w/ Bad Luck Fale and Jado Vs The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) Vs EVIL and SANADA

The Bucks have recently announced their own wrestling company called All Elite Wrestling, which probably means it’s unlikely that they’ll win this one. EVIL and SANADA won the annual tag team tournament to earn this shot, whilst G.O.D are the sons of Meng (Tonga) and Barbarian (Loa) respectively. Tonga wants to shake hands with everyone prior to the match to show that he’s turned over a new leaf from his usual heel ways, but no one is buying it and EVIL yanks him out of the ring for a beat down.

Matt Jackson also gets attacked by EVIL outside the ring, as he takes a slam on the ramp to aggravate his bad back. Hey, he’s not called “EVIL” for nothing you know! The Bucks clear the ring in response and hit all the other teams with a variety of double team attacks. Matt goes to the Sharpshooter on EVIL, but G.O.D don’t break it up and instead encourage EVIL to make the ropes instead. I’m not getting this well behaved G.O.D stuff at all.

SANADA gets the tag and runs wild, hitting dives onto everyone else in the match to a great reaction from the crowd. SANADA is going to be a HUGE star one of these days.  SANADA goes for the Skull End (Dragon Sleeper) back in the ring on Matt, but Nick breaks it up to start out Finisher Madness™, as everyone starts hitting big moves. Fale and Jado come in to help their team, but their interference backfires and they are cleared out of the ring by EVIL and SANADA.

The Bucks lay everyone out and go to finish SANADA, but G.O.D break it up before they can manage it. This allows EVIL and SANADA to rally and SANADA ends up pinning Matt clean with a moonsault to give his team the titles.

WINNERS AND NEW CHAMPIONS: EVIL AND SANADA
RATING: ***1/4

This was good action and more exciting than the previous triple threat.

Match Five
IWGP United States Title
Champion: Cody w/ Brandi Rhodes Vs Juice Robinson

This will hopefully be Juice’s coronation after some big defeats in 2018. At some point they’re going to have to go with him if they want any chance of him becoming more than just a bit player. Cody is another person involved in All Elite Wrestling, so the chances of him winning here must also be slim, but you never know.

Watching Cody’s entrance makes me think that he’d make an excellent young Ocelot if they ever decide to make a movie of Metal Gear Solid 3. Cody tries shenanigans to start, by going after Juice with the title belt, but Juice fends him off and hits the Juice Box (Fireman’s carry onto the knees) before heading up top.

Brandi comes in for the distraction however, which allows Cody to recover. Cody goes for the Cross Rhodes off the apron, but Juice fights him off, so Cody sends him shoulder first into the ring post instead. Cody is wearing Jacksonville Jaguars colours here on his gear, which is due to the son of their own being heavily involved in All Elite Wrestling.

Cody distracts the referee, which allows Brandi to come in to the ring with a spear onto Juice. However, the referee catches her in the act and expels her to the back, leaving Cody on his own. Cody still manages to hit Juice with the Cross Rhodes, but Juice is able to kick out. Cody goes for the Brain Breaker, but Juice slips out and goes for the Pulp Friction (Tomikazee/Unprettier) but Cody blocks it.

Juice is able to counter a Cross Rhodes attempt with one of his own. Cody replies with a disaster kick and then delivers his own Pulp Friction for two. They’ve skipped any semblance of a shine or heat segment here and gone right to the finishing sequence. Cody and Juice trade punches, with Juice getting the better of things with two big punches. Juice hits Pulp Friction, but he chooses not to cover and instead hits it again, before covering for the victory.

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: JUICE ROBINSON
RATING: **1/2

This was a strange and abrupt match, with it all feeling very rushed. It was a change of pace I guess, but it didn’t really feel like the big moment it should have been for Juice getting the win here.

Match Six
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title
Champion: KUSHIDA Vs Taiji Ishimori

In a cute moment, a young kid comes out dressed as KUSHIDA and “Doc Brown” has to use the power of time travel to turn him into adult KUSHIDA in time for the match. Two of the best matches I’ve ever seen live have included these two men (Ishimori and KENTA Vs Bryan Danielson and Eddie Edwards/KUSHIDA Vs Kyle O’Reilly) so I’m hopeful that they’ll have a good match here.

Ishimori works a LeBelle Lock early on, which leads to KUSHIDA going to the ropes to break. Ishimori continues to dominate, but misses a 450 splash, which allows KUSHIDA a way back in by going after the arm. KUSHIDA transitions between a litany of submission moves, looking to put his opponent away, but Ishimori manages to fend him off.

After a wonderful series of counters, KUSHIDA goes for a small package driver, only for Ishimori to counter by driving KUSHIDA chest first into his knees from a tombstone position. This match has really felt like an actual contest, as both men have been struggling and fighting for everything. Both of these men are so talented at making their work look realistic.

KUSHIDA tries a double wrist lock, but Ishimori powers out into a death valley driver for a double down. Ishimori hits the knees in the corner, but KUSHIDA blocks a follow up move and counters into a small package driver. Ishimori replies with a double stomp however and then hits a Bloody Sunday DDT for the win.

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: TAIJI ISHIMORI
RATING: ***3/4

Strong performance from Ishimori there, with a clean win making him look like a star. The match lacked sustained heat from the crowd, but the work was excellent. Rumours are going round that KUSHIDA might want to go to WWE, which means we might not see a rematch. Hopefully we do, as I’d like to see these two go at it again.

Match Seven
Jay White w/ Gedo Vs Kazuchika Okada

The story here is that Gedo used to manage Okada, but he has now hitched his wagon to White as he feels Okada’s time is over. This is an interesting match, as Okada could probably do with a big win but White’s momentum could take a serious dent were he to lose. I wasn’t a massive fan of White this time last year, but I think he’s really grown into the role of a heel and I loved his work during G1, so I’m perfectly fine with him getting a push. He decides to go all Ted Dibiase here by busting out a super cool alternate white attire.

Speaking of attire, Okada has finally ditched his awful baggy Aladdin pants and gone back to trunks, looking miles better instantly. Hopefully that’s the last we see of those awful garments going forward. White stomps away to start, to actual heel heat no less, but Okada replies with a seated dropkick. Gedo trips Okada, which allows White to Saito Suplex Okada over the top rope to the outside.

Outside the ring, White goes to his usual MO of flinging Okada between the ring apron and guardrails to wear him down. I love how White takes something so simple and turns it into a great vicious heel spot like that. Back inside, White hits another Saito Suplex for two, before going to a chin lock. Okada fights out of the chin lock and hits some slaps before delivering a DDT for two. Okada dropkicks White to the outside and then flings him over the guardrail.

Gedo tries to attack Okada, but Okada no sells that and flings him over the railing as well before following with a dive onto both of his enemies. Okada is bloody brilliant! Back inside, Okada heads up top and hits the elbow drop, but White fights off the Rainmaker attempt and hits a release German Suplex. Gedo distracts the referee, which allows White to grab a chair for a sneak attack, but Okada fends him off and sends client into manager.

White replies by suplexing Okada onto his HEAD and follows with the Kiwi Krusher for two. Okada slips out of a Blade Runner attempt and hits a tombstone for a double down. The crowd are massively into Okada here and have totally bought into the feud. Both men go for their finishers in a great sequence, which ends with Okada hitting a discus clothesline. Okada tries to end things with the Rainmaker lariat, but White is able to counter into the Blade Runner and that’s enough for the win.

WINNER: JAY WHITE
RATING: ****1/4

I think that was the right decision in the end, as this win gives White a lot of steam and they can always rematch him with Okada down the line to pay the feud off. Okada going away and soul searching before coming back for revenge is a good story. The match itself was excellent, with the fans totally buying into the face vs heel dynamic and the work being the usual great stuff you expect from both men.

Semi-Main Event
IWGP Intercontinental Title
Champion: Chris Jericho Vs Tetsuya Naito

Naito greeting Jericho with “Jericho saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan” on promos is always funny. Jericho debuted in New Japan over a year ago and once again reinvented himself as an insane and violent heel. Naito is one of New Japan’s top stars and plays a Lucha Libre styled rudo character. Naito jumps Jericho prior to the bell and takes the fight to the ramp, where he drops Jericho with a sickening piledriver.

Back inside, Naito takes off the turnbuckle pad so that he can attack Jericho with it. Naito clotheslines Jericho outside but, when he goes for a dive, Jericho catches him with a shot from a Singapore cane. Jericho works Naito over with the cane and then dropkicks him off the apron to the floor. Over to the announcing area we go, where Jericho spikes Naito with a vicious DDT on to one of the tables. The noise from that made me shudder.

Back inside, Jericho gets a cross body from the top rope for two, as the fans get on his back. I love Jericho going to Japan and drawing genuine heel heat like this, it’s fantastic. Jericho gets the Lionsault, but Naito is out at two. Naito finally gets a flying forearm to buy himself some time and no sells some Jericho boots to the face. Naito hits a neck breaker, but then makes a relaxed cover and Jericho is easily able to kick out.

Jericho catches a dropkick and goes to The Walls of Jericho, but Naito is able to fight his way out and hit a swinging DDT. Naito hits a pump handle driver for two and then tries The Destino, but Jericho blocks it and goes back to The Walls. Thankfully for Naito, the cane from earlier is nearby and he is able to use it to fight his way out of the hold. The crowd totally twigged where that was going and their reaction was brilliant.

Naito attacks Jericho with the cane, but he misses the final big swing and Jericho is able to hit the Code Breaker for two. Jericho heads outside and starts throwing a stack of chairs into the ring, finding 8 in total. Jericho goes for a powerbomb on all the chairs, but Naito turns it into a DDT, before hitting his own Code Breaker for two. Naito heads up top with the cane, but Jericho flings a chair at him to stop that.

Jericho goes for a suplex from the top, but Naito lands behind him and gets a German Suplex. Jericho replies by going low and hits another Code Breaker, but Naito is just able to kick out at two. That was an exceptionally well timed near fall there. Jericho goes for a belt shot, but Naito counters with a flapjack into the unprotected turnbuckle before hitting The Destino, for two! Wow, I thought that was it there! Naito won’t be denied however, and gets a belt shot before hitting another Destino for the win.

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPIONS: TETSUYA NAITO
RATING: ****1/2

This was a great match. I was enjoying it so much that I didn’t want it to end. Jericho really has helped his legacy no end with this amazing New Japan run.

Main Event
IWGP Heavyweight Title
Champion: Kenny Omega Vs Hiroshi Tanahashi

The big story with this one is that it’s a battle of philosophies, with Omega being a revolutionary whose trying to change the world, whilst Tanahashi is the graduate of the old school who believes a champion should behave with class and respect. Omega has a special entrance outfit here, although I’m unsure if it is from anything. The commentators don’t seem to know, or if they do they don’t seem to mention it. Apologies if I missed it.

Tana slips Omega to start, to ram the point home about him disliking the cut of his jib, so Omega unloads with strikes in reply. Tana fights back by going after the legs, but Omega kicks away at him and chokes him in the corner. Omega works over Tanahashi’s back, with Tana getting the odd spurt of offence in to show he’s still in the fight. Outside we go, where Tana gets suplexed back first onto the apron from Omega.

Tana fights back with a dropkick on the floor, but he struggles again to get any momentum and Omega replies by body slamming him onto the announcers table. Tanahashi’s back looked like it scraped the edge of the table there, which looked bloody painful. Omega follows with an Asai moonsault onto Tanahashi, before setting up a table at ringside. Tana fights back again and decides to put Omega back inside the ring, rather than use the table.

Tana floors Omega with a forearm back in the ring and then gets his first Dragon Screw of the match, followed by a somersault senton splash off the second rope for two. Omega blocks a Slingblade attempt with a chop to the throat and follows up with a face buster. Tana stops an Omega dive, to audible boo’s, but gets rana’d to the floor, where Omega manages to get the dive this time. Omega’s back smacked off the ramp there with a sickening thud. It did not look or sound pleasant.

Back inside the ring, Omega hits a missile dropkick to Tana and follows that up with two snap Dragon Suplexes and a V-Trigger knee strike. Tana can’t escape the rolling fireman’s carry, but Omega tweaks his knee whilst performing the move and this allows Tana to unleash a vicious reverse Dragon Screw. Tana goes to the cloverleaf hold, as we get the 20 minute call. Omega fights that, so Tana turns it into the Styles Clash instead and heads up for the High-Fly-Flow Frogplash, but Omega is able to get his knees up to counter.

Omega tries another V-Trigger, but Tanahashi moves and he goes knee first into the turnbuckle. Tana gets another Dragon Screw and then follows with a Slingblade onto the apron. In a funny moment, the Japanese announcer is yelling so loudly at this point that you can actually hear him on the English audio channel. The tables are right next to each other at the end of the day, but he really must have been losing his mind to be heard over the English commentary!

Tana decides to forgo his philosophy and try to put Omega through the table with a splash, but Omega moves and he ends up going through it. Wrestling is a morality people, never forget that. Omega folds Tanahashi up with a series of powerbombs back inside the ring, but Tanahashi is able to kick out after each pin fall attempt. Omega outright chokes Tanahashi in full view of the ref, before going for another V-Trigger, only to be caught with a Slingblade out of nowhere.

Both men trade strikes, with the shots ringing out through the Dome. Omega delivers some knee strikes, before getting a release German Suplex and his own Slingblade. Omega tries his own High-Fly-Flow from the top rope, but Tana kicks out at one and is super pissed at someone else trying his move. Omega puts him on dream street with another V-Trigger and hits a reverse rana not soon after. Omega tries the One Winged Angel (Electric chair into a Michinoku Driver) but Tana actually hits a reverse rana of his own to count it.

Tana gets a Dragon Suplex for two before going up for a big High-Fly-Flow, only for Omega to kick out at two. That was one heck of a near fall right there! This bugger just keeps building, and it’s a long match that is justifying its length. Tana heads up top, but Omega smacks him with a V-Trigger and brings him down with a Dragon Suplex from the top. Thankfully, Tanahashi flipped all the way over and landing on his front instead of his neck, although it busted his mouth up a bit. Better to have a cut lip that a broken neck.

Omega brings the pain with another V-Trigger and goes for the One Winged Angel, but Tana counters it again and hits the Slingblade again. Tana heads up to the top once more and hits another gorgeous looking High-Fly-Flow, made all the better by Omega reaching up to him on the way down, and that’s enough to become champion once again.

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: HIROSHI TANAHASHI
RATING: *****

A classic bout. It was long but it earnt the length by constantly building and the making the match feel like a genuine contest. It was long because both men were super resilient and needed to be worn down, which took time to do, rather than it being long for the sake of it being long. Sometimes a fight is just epic, and this was one of those times. I really do think that Tanahashi is the greatest ever, what an absolute legend!

Final Thoughts

Any show with five matches **** or higher is an automatic thumbs up. You could argue that last year’s show was better overall, but Wrestle Kingdom 13 is still going to be of higher quality than 99% of other company’s big events this year. If you haven’t considered signing up to New Japan World, then I’d thoroughly recommend it, as this show is brilliant and there’s a good chance it’ll hook you.

Whilst you’re here, why not check out Jes’s article on the Nintendo Switch? There’s some really interesting stuff in there and you can read more by clicking right HERE

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