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NJPW vs. NOAH – Wrestle Kingdom 17 in Yokohama Review – 1.4.23

1 year ago

NJPW vs. NOAH – Wrestle Kingdom 17 in Yokohama Review – 1.4.23

NJPW vs. NOAH – Wrestle Kingdom 17 in Yokohama Review – 1.4.23

By: Thom Fain

Reporting to you live from Yokohama Arena and joined by our amazing photographer, Masahira Kubota-san!  It’s been a whirlwind month for puroresu fans and things are showing no signs of slowing down any time soon, and we are happy to bring you news from the ground in Tokyo.

Following KONGO’s invasion of Wrestle Kingdom (and last year’s joint event between New Japan and Pro-Wrestling NOAH), a score was settled tonight between their leader Kenoh and Los Ingobernales de Japon leader Tetsuya Naito.

The factional warfare didn’t stop there, however, with a best of five series

Pre-show: Ryohei Oiwa & Kosei Fujita vs. Yasutaka Yano & Taishi Ozawa

The opening bout predictably put the youngsters in a position to prove their mettle.

It was a quick entry into the action, with Young Lions going at each other like their lives depended on it; in the end, the NJPW faction would get the best of NOAH’s through a Boston Crab when Kosei Fujita tapped out Taishi Ozawa.

Pre-show: Tomohiro Ishii & Oskar Leube vs. Masa Kitamiya & Daiki Inaba

Masa Kitamiya and Tomohiro Ishii exchanged blows right up front, creating an echo of cheering through Yokohama Arena rarely heard or felt since regulators silenced puroresu fans in Japan over two years ago. Neither man cold seemingly out the other down, matched just about evenly. The youngsters took over from there until the tide seemed to turn when Oskar Leube successfully turned Kitamiya over into the ubiquitous Boston Crab, showing respectable strength, but interference by Inaba drew “boos” from the crowd until Leube overpowered both opponents and put Kitamiya back into a Crab. With the crowd clearly behind the NJPW contingent during this sequence, anticipation built — but unfortunately, when Kitamiya returned to the ring he proved too mighty and earned the ‘W’ with a Prison Lock.

Unhappy with the result, Ishii attacked both opponents from the ring back up to the entrance until the pair finally tamed the “Stone Pitbull”, giving fans us a chance to breathe ahead of the main card

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Toru Yano, Satoshi Kojima & Takashi Sugiura vs. Naomichi Marufuji, KENTA, El Phantasmo & Gedo

As to be expected, this match was pure fan service, with the intrapromotional teams taking turns playing the hits — and keeping Toru Yano out of the ring whenever possible. It may not have been a wrestling purists’ dream match but it was a unique chance to see a blend of characters working in tandem that, many being in their career twilights, we would be fortunate to see again.

Of course, Yano found a way to get a sneaky roll-up in the end to win the match — but Marufuji, for one, was happy to get away from El Phantasmo and his ridiculous postmodern clowning.

Winners: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Toru Yano, Satoshi Kojima & Takashi Sugiura

El Desperado vs. YO-HEY

You’d be hard pressed to find two Jr. Heavyweights who like to lay it on the line more often and who are each in their respective promotions’ Jr. Heavy Title picture as often as anyone on their rosters.

Perhaps it was due to their short amount of time, but the chemistry seemed off. The pair traded dynamic offense, even as YO-HEY alternated between bursts of energy and appearing hurt; in the end YO-HEY reversed out of the Pinche Loco into a near fall. His continued comeback attempts would prove futile after falling victim to Numero Dos, giving Team NJPW a victory.

Winner: El Desperado — NJPW 2, NOAH 1

Tiger Mask, Ryusuke Taguchi & Master Wato vs. AMAKUSA, Junta Miyawaki & Alejandro

A little heavy on the touch-and-go to get going, but Tiger Mask did hit his patented Tiger Driver at one point and for the fans unaware of how good AMAKUSA can be it was a much-needed bout for the NOAH Jr. Heavyweight to expose himself to domestic audiences.

The match ended when AMAKUSA hit his ridiculous “Firebird” 450 Splash for the NOAH victory.

Winners: AMAKUSA, Junta Miyawaki & Alejandro — NJPW 2, NOAH 2

Kazuchika Okada & Togi Makabe vs Kaito Kiyomiya & Yoshiki Inamura

With cheering back, the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion enjoyed a raucous Yokohama Arena with every “O-ka-da! O-ka-da!” chant.

Undeterred by the man he’s forever in the shadow of, Kaito Kiyomiya broke up an early attempt at the Money Lock on Inamura with interference and a kick to Okada’s back. This earned an arena of boos, before laid the smackdown on his younger opponent with a number of blows and slaps to the head on the outside of the ring. The two remained there exchanging offense until Togi Makabe pulled Kiyomiya off of Okada — who took advantage of the two-on-one situation by dumping Kiyomiya into the crowd.

The GHC Heavyweight Champion was undeterred and took it to Okada with a flurry of offense, giving fans their money’s worth with a knockdown, drag-out slobberknocker until the red called a double DQ — much to the (very audible) dismay of the arena.

The IWGP champ was cut in the process, and after Kiyomiya picked up the mic to issue a future challenge — Yokohama Arena backed the challenger’s sentiment wholeheartedly before, yes, they fought again all the way up the onramp before having to be separated by Young Lions.

Double Disqualification — NJPW 2, NOAH 2

Kongo vs LIJ Best of five series: Tadasuke vs BUSHI

The Los Ingobernales de Japon vs. KONGO intrapromotional faction warfare begun with a fast-paced match of two Jr. Heavyweight mid-carders who never quite get the credit they deserve.

As the fervent contingent of Western NOAH  fans would tell you, Taduske is a pure babyface worth more than his weight in gold. Although “The Out Cast” is characteristically unaware of how his undeserved vanity is tied to his shortcomings in the W/L column, he over-delivered alongside BUSHI.

While he had the upper hand during their brawl outside of the ring, Taduske fell victim to an array of the LIJ member’s maneuvers before being sent to the outside and hit with a tope suicida.

BUSHI got Taduske with the black mist, but his KONGO opponent would sneak a quick pin for the win to give NOAH an advantage in the series.


Kongo vs LIJ Best of five series: Hiromu Takahashi vs Hajime Ohara

What. A. War. This match exceeded all expectations, and even pit the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champ as the underdog in this brutal match.

Around five minutes in, Hiromu gunned for a shotgun dropkick off the ring apron but missed, landing on nothing but the arena floor.

Ohara landed some strikes before throwing him manically into the guardrail. Back in the ring, Ohara tossed Hiromu into a backbreaker for the first nearfall. Hiromu’s comeback attempt came with a viscious Death Valley Driver into the turnbuckles, although his mobility was hampered by Ohara’s earlier brutality.

Ohara got him into a Half Crab in the center of the ring, riling up Yokohama Arena to a fever pitch, but Hiromu clawed his way to the ropes to break the submission.

Hiromu fired back with a thrust kick and a lariat before dropping Ohara, and covering him for another nearfall. After receiving the Victory Royal and Timebomb Two, Ohara was put out for good.

Winner: Hiromu Takahashi – NJPW 3, NOAH 3

Kongo vs LIJ Best of five series: SANADA vs Manabu Soya

The heavyweights slowed things down in this one, giving the crowd a chance to take a breath and enjoy a more methodical and bruising competition.

SANADA had Yokohama Arena behind him the entire way, and after taking a beating in the opening minutes, hit a patented drop kick that sent Manabu rolling around outside the ring. SANADA went over the top rope for added insurance to hit the KONGO big man with a splash, and the pair returned to the ring.

It would not take long before SANADA lost his upper hand, with a spear to the ribs accenting a series of strikes and power slams by Manabu. SANADA would claw back and hit a shotgun dropkick from the top rope and eventually a moonsault, before a greedy second moonsault was met with knees to the midsection.

With the match even at 10:00, some mono y mono strikes would end when a SANADA uppercut put Manabu down on one knee — before the big man’s fighting spirit led to a comebacker in the form of a lariat. SANADA would make yet another comeback leading to a nearfall for LIJ, before he was overpowered again and dropped with a deadly DDT which turned into a near fall for KONGO. With no quit in sight for the big man, SANADA hit a desperation headscissors takeover and held Manabu’s tights — but couldn’t get the victory.

All out of answers, SANADA would fall prey to a Lariat on the heels of that patented DDT for another LIJ loss.

Winner: Manabu Soya – NJPW 3, NOAH 4

Kongo vs LIJ Best of five series: Shingo Takagi vs Katsuhiko Nakajima

As if this match could share any other way but a festival of strikes — the pair’s star-crossed egos would remain undamaged until Shingo Takagi landed a back body drop, kicking the back of the Nakajima’s head playfully.

That would not bode well for “The Dragon,” almost as soon as Nakajima was on his feet Shingo was thrown into the ropes and hit with a gnarly knee to the midsection followed by a PK that thundered through the arena, sending Takagi onto the ground writhing in pain.

As soon as he tried to get back into the ring he was sent right back with a boot to the face.

Incredibly, Nakajima would toy with the explosive former IWGP World Heavyweight Champion revealing a split crowd and fans of each man cheering with each change in momentum.

It was decidedly a pro NJPW crowd but the respect for Nakajima was evident.

Nakajima would regain momentum briefly, before Shingo held his own for a series of back-and-forth attacks that drained both wrestlers’ energy. As they both realized, their bodies couldn’t take much more damage before calling it quits, so they had to act fast.

An exchange of big moves preceeded Takagi finishing it all with Last of the Dragon to earn the win in a clearly local environment.

Winner: Shingo Takagi – NJPW 4, NOAH 4

Kongo vs LIJ Best of five series: Tetsuya Naito vs Kenoh

A big fight feel punctuated by extraordinary entrances and ring gear, Kenoh and Tetsuya Naito drew frenetic applause from the start and neither man appeared to have found any love for the other in the time since they last exchanged words.

The crowd’s love for Naito remains unchanged, however, as the long-overdue chants of “Na-i-to!” “Na-i-to!” echoed as loud as ever.

At 5:00 with Naito laid out, Kenoh stole his Are your eyes open pose and promptly took advantage to throw Naito into — and over — the ring barricade. Back in the ring the two would exchange strikes, but being Kenoh’s specialty that was a no-win scenario and Naito knew it.

It was a war of attrition from here.

In the end, Naito would hit a headscissors takeover from the top rope doubling the pressure on Kenoh’s neck area, which he’d been targeting for much of the match. He’s fail to capitalize though as Kenoh regained enough willpower to put Naito back on the mat with a Falcon Arrow and a Dragon Suplex.

A double stomp off the top rope by Kenoh would then miss its target, allowing Naito to hit a swinging DDT.

A strong style exchange of blows would end when Kenoh transitioned into a rolling kick, followed by a nasty ankle lock in the center of the ring. Naito squirmed out of the submission just before tapping out, proceeding to lash out at Kenoh with multiple kicks.

After hitting a running PK, Kenoh would nail his second attempt at s a double stomp off the top rope, but a nearfall forced him to think outside the box — “Burning Fist” attempted a moonsault only for Naito to again roll away, and again force Kenoh to get creative.

After a missed Destino attempt by Naito, he managed to find the opportunity to pull it off properly to get the decisive victory over KONGO and NOAH as a whole.

Winner: Tetsuya Naito – NJPW 5, NOAH 4

Photo c/o Masahiro Kubota

A stunned Kenoh almost put his “Burning Fist” up to Naito’s, but rolled out of the ring to save his honor.

Keiji Muto would come out during Naito’s victory speech and challenge him at the Tokyo Dome for Muto’s final match.

Photo c/o Masahiro Kubota