NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 18 Review: New Champions Crowned

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 18 
Tokyo Dome, Tokyo Japan 

Catch 22 (Francesco Akira & TJP) def. Bullet Club War Dogs (Clark Conners & Drilla Maloney (c) to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles — Akira stood on the ring apron. TJP came out from a casket. TJP revealed he was wearing a mask. They were apparently playing off an angle from the NJPW Road to Tokyo Dome show which I didn’t watch. Akira and TJP delivered stereo dives onto Connors and Maloney on the floor. Maloney was bleeding from the mouth. Maloney stopped TJP yanking him onto the ring apron. Connors and Maloney delivered a Suplex/Spear combo to TJP on the floor. Connors wrapped a dog collar against TJP against the barricade. Akira battled back showing Conners into Maloney. Akira leaped off Conners delivering a Canadian Destroyer to Maloney. TJP ran wild rocking Maloney with a flying double stomp for a two count. Conners appeared catching Akira with a snap powerslam. Maloney delivered the Drilla Killa to TJP who held onto the referee’s hand to stop the count. War Dogs called for Full Clip but Akira made the save. Akira caught Conners with an avalanche Spanish Fly. TJP spat something into Maloney’s face. Akira and TJP delivered 2/2 to Maloney to win the titles. (Amin’s Thoughts) The wrestling match itself was quite good which featured some good action as both teams worked well together. The other stuff with TJP coming out of a coffin and wearing a mask just didn’t click and actually took some enjoyment away from the match. This was NJPW trying to be too cute. This would’ve been so much better if they just had both team work a match without the storyline attached. (***

Hiroshi Tanahashi def. Zack Sabre Jr. (c) (w/TMKD) to win the NJPW World TV Title — Hiroshi Tanahashi received a huge reaction from the crowd. These matches have a 15-minute time limit. Tanahashi shined early catching Sabre with a series of Twist-and-Shouts. Tanahashi connected with a slingblade for a two count. Tanahashi followed hitting a standing High Fly Flow. Tanahashi went for a High Fly Flow but Sabre got his knees up. Sabre applied a European Bridge for a close two count. Sabre went for a PK but Tanahashi countered hitting a Dragon Screw. Tanahashi went for a Texas Cloverleaf. Sabre countered catching Tanahashi in a Triangle Hold. Tanahashi reversed into a Texas Cloverleaf. Sabre reversed right into a cross-arm breaker. Sabre went for a double arm bar but Tanahashi placed his foot on the ropes. Tanahashi went for a Cobra Twist. Sabre countered into an arm bar. Tanahashi reversed into a rollup for a close two count. Tanahshi went for a Dragon Suplex. Sabre countered into a European Bridge for a two count. Tanahashi surprised Sabre with a European Bridge for a close near fall. Sabre went for an Octopus Hold. Tanahashi went for a Dragon Screw but Sabre saw it coming. Sabre countered hitting a pair of neck screws. Sabre went for a Zack Driver but Tanahashi escaped. They kept exchanging pinning combinations for near falls. Tanahashi caught Sabre with a Victory Roll to win the NJPW World TV Title. (Amin’s Thoughts) This is my favourite style of wrestling to watch. The counters and transitions leading to the flash finish was just tremendous. Was kinda surprised with the title switch but hopefully this leads to Sabre moving up the cards. It kinda funny seeing Tanahashi’s who’s the new President of NJPW putting himself over by winning a title on NJPW’s biggest show of the year. This just felt like a feel good moment seeing Tanahashi win the title. (****)

Sabre handed Tanahashi the NJPW World TV Title after the match. Sabre showed respect bowing to Tanahashi. The crowd cheered as Tanahashi celebrated with the title. Tanahashi delivered a promo saying it’s been a while but is a single’s champion. Tanahashi wished everyone a Happy New Year. Tanahashi spoke about being the President of New Japan Pro-Wrestling. Tanahashi hopes everyone will supports him going forward. The crowd cheered. 

Yuya Uemura def. Yota Tsuji — The match began with chain wrestling. Uemura went for a leapfrog but Tsuji caught him with a spinebuster. Tsuji took the lead hitting a tope sending Uemura crashing into the barricade. Tsuji connected with an electric chair for a two count. Uemura countered catching Tsuji with a cross-arm breaker. Tsuji placed his foot on the ropes to force a break. Tsuji stopped Uemura rocking him with a huge palm strike. Tsuji connected with a shoulder tackle for a near fall. Uemura battled back hitting a running bulldog for a two count. Uemura went for a dive but Tsuji moved. Tsuji caught Uemura with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Tsuji went for a Super Spanish Fly but Uemura knocked him off the ropes. Uemura went for a dive but Tsuji caught him with a superkick. Tsuji connected with a spinning slam for a two count. Tsuji called for the Gene Blaster but Uemura caught him with an arm drag. Tsuji reversed into a rollup for a near fall. Tsuji caught Uemura with a face buster into a Curb Stomp. Tsuji went for a Curb Stomp but Uemura moved. Uemura connected with a German suplex. Uemura followed with a Dragon Suplex for two. Uemura delivered the Deadbolt for the win. (Amin’s Thoughts) I had higher expectations coming into the match. I was hoping Tsuji and Uemura would get time to put a standout match. I will say both Tsuji and Uemura have bright futures and it’s time for NJPW to put more focus on their younger talent. This was a good match but at no point did it come close to reaching great. (***)

House of Torture (EVIL & Ren Narita) def. Shota Umino & Kaito Kiyomiya — Shota Umino got a special entrance as he came into the Tokyo Dome in a motorcycle. House of Torture ripped up a Pro Wrestling NOAH shirt. Kiyomiya rocked EVIL with corner strikes. EVIL distracted the referee right away. Kiyomiya gave SHO a low blow. Kiyomiya placed EVIL in a Figure-4-Leg Lock. Umino placed Narita in an STF. Yoshinobu Kanemura ran the bell at ringside. The crowd booed. EVIL and Narita showed Kiyomiya and Umino into the referee. HoT entered the ring attacking Kiyomiya and Umino. Dick Togo flew off the ropes delivering flying axe handle smash into Kiyomiya’s balls. Kiyomiya battled back rocking Narita with a rising knee strike. Umino ran wild planting Narita with a Slingshot DDT onto the ring apron. Umino took out HoT on the floor. Umino planted Narita with an elevated reverse DDT for a two count. Kiyomiya and Umino rocked Umino with a series of combination moves. The crowd booed as EVIL appeared choking Umino with his shirt in-front of the referee. Kiyomiya caught EVIL with Everything is EVIL. Kiyomiya caught SHO with a Shining Wizard. EVIL stopped Kiyomiya catching him with Everything is EVIL. Umino caught Narita with a half-and-half suplex after a fun counter exchange. Umino connected with a bridging half-and-half suplex for a two count. Yujiro Takahashi distracted the referee. Narita rocked Umino with a Pushup Bar. Narita planted Umino with a Spike X-Factor for the win. (Amin’s Thoughts) This was your usual House of Torture nonsense match that didn’t belong on a Tokyo Dome show. (*)

Tama Tonga def. Shingo Takagi (c) to win the NEVER Openweight Title — Shingo and Tonga began exchanging strikes. Shingo caught Tonga with a Saito Suplex. Tonga no-sold it catching Shingo with an exploder suplex. Tonga took the lead hitting a second exploder suplex for a two count. Shingo battled back rocking Tonga with a jab/lariat combo. Shingo connected with a Tope Con Hilo to the floor. Tonga responded catching Shingo with a flying neck breaker. Tonga connected with a rolling fireman’s carry. Shingo quickly stopped Tonga from climbing the ropes. Shingo planted Tonga with a superplex which got a great reaction. Shingo rocked Tonga with a sliding lariat. Shingo called for a Death Valley Driver but Tonga countered into Tongan Twist. Tonga flew off the ropes hitting a Supreme Flo for a two count. Tonga called for Gun Stun but Shingo blocked. Shingo connected with a Stack Powerbomb for a two count. Shingo called for Made in Japan but Tonga countered into Gun Stun in a fantastic spot. Tonga connected with Bloody Sunday but Shingo kicked out at one. Tonga went for a powerbomb but Shingo reversed into a hurricanrana. Shingo responded surprising Tonga with a Gun Stun. Shingo followed hitting Made in Japan for a good two count. Shingo called for Last of the Dragon but Tonga countered into a Styles Clash which got a great reaction. Tonga followed hitting a Gun Stun. Shingo kicked out for a great two count. Tonga delivered DSD to win the NEVER Openweight Title. (Amin’s Thought) This was a really good action packed hard hitting match. A great showing from Shingo and Tonga as they worked the match wanting to bring out each other’s best. The closing minutes with the great near falls really added some great drama. Tonga hitting the signature moves of AJ Styles, Finn Bálor and Karl Anderson who are all in WWE was interesting. Tonga was part of Bullet Club so he might have been shouting out his friends. It is noteworthy because Tonga noted after the show he’s leaving NJPW at the end of the month. This was the first great on the show to this point. (****)

Nic Nemeth (formerly Dolph Ziggler) and Ryan Nemeth from AEW made their way ringside to the VIP section. The crowd reacted big to Ziggler. 

Guerrillas of Destiny (El Phantasmo & Hikuleo) (c) (w/Jado) def. Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) (c) to win both the IWGP Tag Team & NJPW Strong Openweight Tag Team Titles — Phantasmo and YOSHI began exchanging strikes. Hikuelo got some shine planting Goto and YOSHI with a double suplex. Phantasmo called for a superkick but YOHI held onto his leg. Goto took advantage planting Phantasmo with a Saito suplex. Goto and YOSHI delivered a Blockbuster/backdrop combo to Phantasmo but Hikuleo made the save. There was a great spot as Phantasmo leaped off YOSHI catching Goto with a flying hurricanrana. Hikuleo ran wild rocking Goto and YOSHI with a double clothesline. Phantasmo accidentally rocked Hikuelo with a superkick. Goto and YOSHI connected with a double team gut buster to Phantasmo for a two count. Goto and YOSHI delivered Shoto to Phantasmo but Hikuleo made the save. Goto went for a powerbomb but Phantasmo countered into a hurricanrana. Phantasmo tagged Hikuelo into the match. Phantasmo took out YOSHI with a dive on the floor which the camera missed. Goto showed Hikuelo into Phantasmo sending him to the floor. Goto caught Hikuleo with an Ushigorishi for a two count. Phantasmo returned rocking Goto with a superkick. Phantasmo connected with a flying moonsault to YOSHI on the floor. Hikuelo planted Goto with a Chokeslam. Hikuelo and Phantasmo delivered a Rocket Launcher but Goto kicked out two. Phantasmo delivered the CR3 to Goto. Hikuelo climbed the ropes hitting a Frog Splash for the win to win both tag team titles. (Amin’s Thoughts) This was a good action packed tag team match as both teams worked hard. Goto and YOSHI are a great team but the act just feels stale to me. There’s needs some freshening up in the tag division. Hikuelo and Phantasmo could be the team to bring some freshness with their speed and power combination. A good match with a cool finish. (***¼

El Desperado def. Hiromu Takahashi (c) to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title — Desperado wasted no time hitting a Tope Con Hilo onto Takahashi during his entrance. Desperado took control hitting a fireman’s carry slam. Takahashi avoided a dive rocking Desperado with a basement dropkick. Takahashi took the lead hitting a Woo Dropkick launching Desperado over the barricade. Takahashi connected with a Falcon Arrow for a near fall. Desperado responded catching Takahashi with a spinebuster for a near fall. Desperado went for a Stretch Muffler but Takahashi grabbed the ropes. Desperado connected with a modified Blue Thunder Bomb for a two count. Desperado called for Pinche Loco but Takahashi blocked. Takahashi responded catching Desperado with a wheelbarrow flatliner. Takahashi caught Desperado with a snap German suplex coming off the ropes. Takahashi went for Time Bomb but Desperado countered into a Stretch Muffler. Takahashi broke free catching Desperado with a Canadian Destroyer. Takahashi connected with Time Bomb for a two count. Takahashi went for an avalanche wheelbarrow buster but Desperado blocked. Desperado caught Takahashi with an avalanche Blue Thunder Bomb for a double down. Desperado took the lead rocking Takahashi with huge forearm smashes. Takahashi responded hitting a pair of superkicks. Takahashi called for Time Bomb 2 but Desperado countered into an Olympic Slam. Desperado connected with Pinche Loco but Takahashi kicked out for a great two count. Desperado went for Pinche Loco again. Takahashi countered into the Hiromu Roll for a two count. Desperado rocked Takahashi with a huge forearm smash. Desperado planted Takahahsi with a Jay Driller. Desperado maintained control hitting Pinche Loco to win the title. (Amin’s Thoughts) This was a really good match. Just tremendous action as both Desperado and Takahashi have great chemistry together. I’m really hoping that Takahashi dropping the title is a way to move him out of the Junior Heavyweight division. Takahashi is one of my favourite wrestlers in NJPW but he just feels stale right now. A strong showing from Desperado who looked great in the win. (****)

David Finlay (w/Gedo) def. Will Ospreay and Jon Moxley to become the Inaugural IWGP Global Heavyweight Champion — Will Ospreay’s entrance was awesome doing an Assassin Creed impersonation. Ospreay received a superstar reaction from the crowd. Moxley got a huge reaction. Moxley and Ospreay both took turns attacking Finlay. The action moved to the floor as Moxley planted Finlay with a suplex on the floor. Moxley and Ospreay delivered a double backdrop sending Finlay crashing through a table. The crowd popped as Moxley and Ospreay exchanged huge strikes. Ospreay went for a handspring but Moxley caught him with a German suplex. Ospreay battled back catching Moxley with a Cheeky Nando Kick. Ospreay called for OzCutter but Moxley countered into a Sleeper suplex. Ospreay responded catching Moxley with a Spanish Fly coming off the ropes. Moxley transitioned right into an arm bar in a great spot. Ospreay broke free planting Moxley with a Buckle Bomb. Moxley no-sold it rocking Ospreay with a huge lariat. The crowd booed as Finlay appeared running Moxley into the ring post. Finlay delivered a Scheille assisted neck breaker to Ospreay on the ring apron. Moxley was busted open. Moxley responded launching Finlay with an X-Plex. Ospreay rocked Finlay and Moxley with a double handspring kick at the 10-minute mark. Moxley connected with a tope to Finlay on the floor. Ospreay connected with a flying moonsault to the floor. Ospreay went for a springboard but Moxley intercepted him with a forearm smash. Moxley delivered the Death Rider but Ospreay kicked out at two. Moxley grabbed Finlay and gave him a piledriver onto Ospreay for a two count. Moxley tossed a chair into Finlay’s face. Finlay responded delivering a uranage slam sending Moxley crashing onto the chair edge. Finlay grabbed Ospreay and gave him a Dominator onto Moxley for a two count. Finlay planted Ospreay with an Irish Curse Backbreaker. Moxley rocked Finlay with a running Regal Knee. Moxley caught Ospreay with a Death Rider. There was a great spot as Ospreay bounced up rocking Moxley with the Hidden Blade. Finlay covered Moxley for a two count. Finlay gave Moxley the Oblivion. Ospreay rocked Finlay with Hidden Blade. Finlay fell onto Moxley for a two count. Moxley and Ospreay no-sold Finlay’s strikes. The crowd popped huge as Moxley and Ospreay rocked Finlay with stereo strikes. The crowd just booed as Bullet Club War Dogs attacked Moxley and Ospreay. Ospreay caught Alex Coughlin with a flying OzCutter at the 20-minute mark. Moxley placed both Gabe Kidd and Coughlin onto tables. Ospreay delivered a Swanton Bomb to Coughlin and Kidd onto the two tables. Kidd fell off the first table which didn’t break. There was a comedy moment as Coughlin’s butt was sticking through the middle of the second table. Moxley planted Finlay with a pair of Death Rider DDTs. Ospreay appeared rocking Moxley with Hidden Blade for a good two count. Ospreay delivered the Storm Breaker to Moxley. Finlay appeared delivering Oblivion to Ospreay for a good two count. Finlay delivered a Suplex into a Knee Strike combo to Ospreay to win the title. (Amin’s Thoughts) This was a tremendous action packed match. Watching this match it was clear the fans just wanted to see Moxley and Ospreay go against each other. Finlay winning was the only choice because he’s actually signed to NJPW. That was my only problem with the match. Finlay despite the win still came off as the side piece. (****½

The big angle came after the match. Finlay got in Nic Nemeth’s (Dolph Ziggler’s) face. They both jawed at each other. Finlay showed Nemeth. A brawl broke out as Finlay left with Gedo to the back. Nemeth was held back by NJPW Young Lions. 

Amin’s Thoughts: This was a good way to introduce Nemeth to the NJPW crowd. Nemeth showed great fire in the brawl. The question is when do they do they have the Finlay and Nemeth match take place. 

Kazuchika Okada def. Bryan Danielson — Okada received a superstar reaction from the crowd. Danielson got a great reaction. The only bummer was Danielson didn’t come out to Final Countdown. Danielson was still wearing his eyepatch. The match began with some mat wrestling. The action quickly picked up as Danielson and Okada exchanged big forearm smashes. Okada took the lead hitting a DDT for a two count. Okada planted Danielson with a DDT on the floor. Okada went for a charge but Danielson caught him with a jumping knee strike. Danielson took control slamming the barricade into Okada’s arm. Danielson connected with a northern lights suplex for two. The crowd popped as Danielson pulled on Okada’s arm. Okada managed to place his foot on the ropes. Okada caught Danielson charging with a big boot at the 10-minute mark. Okada battled back hitting an Air Raid Crash. Danielson stopped Okada from climbing the ropes. Danielson delivered an avalanche butterfly suplex. Danielson went for the LeBell Lock but Okada placed his foot on the ropes. Okada stopped Danielson’s momentum hitting a Tombstone Piledriver onto the ring apron. Okada placed subtle heel as he tossed away Danielson’s eyepatch and kicked away in the corner. Okada connected with an InSane Elbow Drop. Okada did his signature Rainmaker pose to a huge reaction. Okada called for the Rainmaker but Danielson countered into a crucifix for a two count. Danielson battled back rocking Okada with a roundhouse kick. Danielson caught Okada with a Buisuke Knee for a two count. Danielson applied the LeBell Lock. Danielson transitioned into the same submission hold he made Okada tap at Forbidden Door which got a big reaction. Okada managed to place his foot on the ropes to force a break. Okada fired up rocking Danielson with a huge Rainmaker at the 20-minute mark. Okada connected with a German suplex. Okada maintained control calling for a Rainmaker. Danielson countered rocking Okada’s arm with a roundhouse kick. Danielson nailed Okada with a Buisuke Knee. Danielson led the crowd in YES chants. Danielson went for a sliding Buisuke Knee but Okada saw it coming. Okada caught Danielson with the Cobra Flosion. Okada went for a reverse Rainmaker but Danielson ducked. Okada caught Danielson with a dropkick. Danielson fired up as he no-sold the dropkick. Okada caught Danielson charging with the Landslide. Okada connected with a Rainmaker. Okada sold his arm as he fell onto Danielson for the win. (Amin’s Thoughts) This was my favourite match and the best match on the show. Just a tremendous back-and-forth action packed match. I really liked the layout of the match. Danielson came into match directing his attacks to Okada’s arm as you could just feel the impact of his strikes. Okada is my favourite wrestle. I just enjoy watching Okada wrestle the most because he knows how to pace the match and build drama. Okada has been even more fun to watch showing a more heelish side. The way Okada just took off Danielson’s eyepatch and kicked away at his face was great stuff. The finish of the match made Okada’s win feel even bigger. Okada fighting through the pain of his arm falling onto Danielson showed he was in a battle. The finish made Okada’s win feel even bigger. A highly recommended match worth watching. (*****)

Okada and Danielson had a stare down after the match. Okada showed Danielson the highest level of respect by bowing on the mat. Danielson showed the same respect by bowing. They shook hands. Danielson raised Okada’s hand. 

Tetsuya Naito def. SANADA to win the IWGP World Heavyweight Title — Naito was treated like a superstar as he received the biggest reaction on the show. Naito and SANADA played mind games with each other in the early going. Naito took the lead hitting catching SANADA with a hip toss neck breaker. Naito applied a seated head scissors but SANADA placed his foot on the ropes. SANADA battled back catching Naito with a backdrop suplex. SANADA followed hitting a slingshot plancha to the floor to a nice reaction at the 10-minute mark. SANADA connected with a TKO for a two count. SANADA applied Skull End but Naito placed his foot on the ropes. SANADA went for a flying moonsault but Naito moved. Naito stopped SANADA momentum rocking him with a slingshot dropkick. Naito planted SANADA with a Hangman Neck Breaker on the floor. Naito connected with a Super Frankenstiner. Huge Naito chants from the crowd. Naito went for a Swing DDT but SANADA blocked. SANADA caught Naito with Magic Screw for a double down. SANADA took the lead hitting a Poisonrana. SANADA rocked Naito with a Shining Wizard. SANADA went for a flying moonsault but Naito got his knees up to reset the match. The crowd cheered as Naito battled back rocking SANADA with a series of elbow smashes. Naito planted SANADA with Esperanza. Naito followed hitting Destino to a a huge reaction. Naito called for a second Destino. SANADA countered catching Naito with a TKO at the 20-minute mark. SANADA made a comeback hitting a pair of flying moonsaults for a close two count. SANADA called for Deadfall. Naito countered with an overhead German suplex as SANADA was dropped onto his head. SANADA no-sold getting right back up. Naito caught SANADA charging with a spinebuster. Naito caught SANADA with a Destino to a big reaction. Naito went for a second Destino but SANADA just feel to the mat in a really bad spot. Naito showed by applying a lacklustre cover for a two count. SANADA responded catching Naito with Deadfall which got the crowd back into the match. Naito connected with an enzuigiri. SANADA responded with a rolling elbow. SANADA caught Naito with a modified Destino. SANADA went for Deadfall but Naito escaped. Naito caught SANADA with a rolling kick. The crowd popped as Naito delivered a Spin DDT. Naito went for a Brainbuster but SANADA countered into a European Bridge for a close two count. SANADA rocked Naito with a Shining Wizard. SANADA went for Deadfall but Naito blocked. Naito caught SANADA with Deadfall at the 25-minute mark. The crowd was going nuts as Naito planted SANADA with a brainbuster. Naito delivered Destino to win the IWGP World Title to a huge reaction. (Amin’s Thoughts) This match didn’t reach the level of past Wrestle Kingdom main event matches. This was still a very good match. I wasn’t a fan of SANADA’s run as champion. SANADA looked very good in the match as he worked hard. Naito has clearly slowed down but he knows how to turn it up when it comes to main event matches. The crowd reaction was defining and made this match more enjoyable to watch. The heat for the closing moments was off the charts as they just wanted to see Naito win. Naito winning was the only and correct call to make. (****)

The crowd cheered as Naito’s music played. Red Shoes wrapped a towel over Naito’s eye which apparently got busted open. I’m not sure where it happened. Naito was about to give his Los Ingobernables de Japon roll call. The crowd booed as Naito was attacked by House of Torture members Dick Togo and EVIL. SANADA appeared to make the save for his former LIJ member. Naito got his chance to deliver a promo as he put SANADA over. The crowd roared and chanted along as Naito did his LIJ roll call. Naito was announced as the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion. There was a huge firework display to close to the show. 

Amin’s Thoughts: This was the highlight of the show for the fans in attendance to chant along the LIJ roll call. This was a great feel good moment for Naito. 

Overall Thoughts 

The House of Torture match completely sucked and didn’t belong on the show. Both the tag team matches were good but wouldn’t say they are matches worth seeking on the show. I was expecting more from the Tsuji and Uemura match because of the level of talent. I was glad to see NJPW gave them a chance to have a single’s match on their biggest show. I’m hoping this is the start of NJPW focusing more on their younger stars like Umino Narita (who’s great but sucks that he’s in HoT) Tsuji and Uemura. The match you expected to deliver were all really good. Okada/Danielson and the Triple Threat were my favourite matches on the show. The main event was also worth watching to see the crowd reaction for Naito’s win. Overall, Wrestle Kingdom 18 was a fantastic show. This was a great start to the year for NJPW.