New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 17 emanated from the Tokyo Dome on January 4th, as it does every year. The show returned to a one-night offering and boasted a twelve match card.
Several championships changed hands at Wrestle Kingdom, including Kazuchika Okada pinning “Switchblade” Jay White in the main event to capture his second IWGP World Heavyweight Title.
In a match fans are already calling Match of the Year, Kenny Omega beat Will Ospreay to win the IWGP United States Championship. FTR left Japan with lighter luggage as they loat the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles to Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI.
Zack Sabre Jr. submitted Ren Narita to become the inaugural NJPW World TV Champion, and Hiromu Takahashi regained the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title in a Four-Way match against Taiji Ishimori, El Desperado and Master Wato.
WWE’s Karl Anderson dropped the NEVER Openweight Title to Tama Tonga to round out all of the title changes.
The biggest news coming out of the Tokyo Dome is the New Japan debut of the former Sasha Banks, Mercedes Moné, who challenged Kari following her successful defense of the IWGP Women’s Championship over Tam Nakano.
Moné dropped Kari with what is presumed to be her new finishing maneuver and held Kari’s title up high. Their match is official for New Japan’s San Jose, California show on February 19th.
Moné’s arrival was a mixed bag. She looked and carried herself like a star, but the move she gave Kari was botched, and her promo came off like a WWE promo that felt off and nasally.
Okada vs. White was a well-done match that hit all the right notes but failed to play any music. There was no way to follow Omega vs. Ospreay, and they didn’t try to. Okada/White told the story they needed to tell.
The four-way match for the jr. heavyweight title is better than history will give it credit for. Many multi-person matches produce so much action that the idea of winning the match falls by the wayside. Wrestlers are too focused on the spots and don’t go for many pin attempts until the end of the match, which is always a sign the end is near.
Hiromu Takahashi, Taiji Ishimori, El Desperado, and Master Wato made multiple pin and submission attempts throughout the match. It was nice to see a great mix of action and the will to win as the main narrative.
That co-main, though. Amazing!
We’re only five days into 2023, and it’s hard to picture anyone topping the Omega/Ospreay match. Many have said that throughout the years following Tokyo Dome shows on January 4th. I’m always careful to tell myself there are still 11 months left in the year and don’t crown the match so quickly.
This time, I’m calling it. Ospreay/Omega was an exquisite display of the art and brutality of pro wrestling. It will be the match of the year.
New Japan’s preeminent show had contracted talent from WWE, AEW, Stardom, and NOAH. It was a true Wrestle Kingdom on display. After two wonky years, it was nice that Wrestle Kingdom felt like Wrestle Kingdom again. New Japan didn’t have the creative bandwidth to do two nights this year, and it was refreshing to see them not force the issue, which made for an overall better show.
– NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 17 Results – 1/4/23
Kazuchika Okada defeated Jay White to become the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion
Kenny Omega defeated Will Ospreay to win the IWGP United States Champion
Hiromu Takahashi defeated Taiji Ishimori, El Desperado and Master Wato to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Keiji Mutoh, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shota Umino defeated Tetsuya Naito, Bushi, and Sanada when Umino pinned Bushi.
Tama Tonga beat Karl Anderson for the NEVER Openweight Title
Zack Sabre Jr. submitted Ren Narita to become the first NJPW World Television Champion
KAIRI defeated Tam Nakano to retain the IWGP Women’s World Championship
Bishamon defeated FTR to win the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Catch 2/2 defeated LiYoh to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles
Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima & Togi Makabe defeated Tatsumi Fujinami, Minoru Suzuki & Tiger Mask
Great O-Khan, Shingo Takagi, Sho and Toru Yano won the New Japan Ranbo and moved on to New Year’s Dash on 1/5 to vie for the King of Pro Wrestling (KOPW) Title.
Takagi won the KOPW Title on 1/5 by pinning Yano.