NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 17 Quick Results & Thoughts (04/01/2022)
By Mick Robson
Covering this show in an abbreviated form, I'm quite sick at the moment (bad bout of food poisoning), but an event of this magnitude needed to have some coverage on The Arena.
Back at the Tokyo Dome. Stars contracted to both WWE and AEW on a NJPW show. Crowds are allowed to cheer again! (Yeah, the rules surrounding COVID in Japan were especially draconian). A match years in the making is the co-main event, as the man who once carried New Japan on his back, Kenny Omega, returns to face the man who dragged the company through the pandemic, Will Ospreay. And it wouldn't be a Dome show without Okada in the main event, challenging "Switchblade" Jay White for the big gold.
IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship- Catch 22 (TJP & Francesco Akira) def. LiYoh (Lio Rush & Yoh) (at 10:29)
IWGP Women’s Championship- KAIRI def. Tam Nakano (at 5:56)
IWGP World Tag Team Championship- Bishimon (Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi) def. FTR (at 10:10)
NJPW World TV Championship- Zach Sabre Jr. def. Ren Narita (at 10:32)
NEVER Openweight Championship- Tama Tonga def. Karl Anderson (at 9:35)
Shota Umino, Tanahashi and Keiji Muto def. Los Ingobernobles de Japon (Naito, Sanada & Bushi) (at 9:20)
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship- Hiromu Takahashi def. Taiji Ishimori, El Desperado & Master Wato (at 16:43)
IWGP United States Championship- Kenny Omega def. Will Ospreay (at 34:38)
IWGP World Heavyweight Championship- Kazuchika Okada def. Jay White (at 33:03)
Having crowds fully back, being allowed to cheer for the first time in Japan since the pandemic, made a huge difference. I majorly fell off watching New Japan over the last couple of years, watching wrestlers perform to silence. Atmosphere is everything in wrestling.
It was the worst kept secret, but Mercedes Mone (fka Sasha Banks) made her NJPW debut after walking out of WWE last May. Cool new look, and although her new finisher didn't hit as cleanly as it did in her training videos, she looked elated to be back in a wrestling ring, which is good news for fans of The Boss. She is challenging Kairi for the title in San Jose on Feb 18.
Although it was a great novelty to see WWE-contracted Karl Anderson work Wrestle Kingdom, his performance wasn't anything to write home about.
The six-man was Muto's last NJPW match, but in a classy move, he allowed Shota Umino (recently back from excursion) to get a lot of the spotlight and the winning pinfall. Umino looks and performs like a star now, and could be set for a breakout 2023. Very impressive.
The junior heavyweights delivered nicely in the fatal four way. Hiromu as champion again feels like the right call- he's a popular star, and now that crowds can make noise again, he's sure to elicit a lot of that from audiences.
Omega vs. Ospreay... wow. Four days into the year, and 2023 Match Of The Year may be sown up. It was a dream match for many, and these two elite wrestlers showed why. The top rope DDT on the exposed turnbuckle was INSANE, and Big Willy was gushing blood (phrasing). But in all seriousness, this was an incredible, incredible match!
Okada vs. White- I may need to watch this one back, as I was feeling burnt out by this point in the show, and Omega vs. Ospreay was an impossible act to follow. I'm not a die-hard NJPW fan- generally check in for the Wrestle Kingdoms, G1s and BOSJ- but I feel like Okada embodies the best and worst of John Cena. An undeniable star, big match player... but instead of LOLCenaWins, it's LOLOkadaWins. But like Hiromu earlier, putting the belt on the ever-popular Okada feels like the right move.