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Seven Titles Find New Champions at Wrestle Kingdom 18

6 months ago Masahiro Kubota | Monthly Puroresu

Masahiro Kubota | Monthly Puroresu

Seven Titles Find New Champions at Wrestle Kingdom 18

New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s Annual Spectacular Yields Multiple New Champions

By: Thom Fain

In front of a packed Tokyo Dome, fans bore witness to seven title changes in a night destined to shape the future landscape of New Japan.

Wrestle Kingdom 18 signaled a changing of times for NJPW, and who better to earn one of its crowns than the new company President? He prevented Zack Sabre Jr. from delivering on his promise to become Prime Minister of New Japan, the first title change in several across the night that titled power in the company towards the Good Guys.

IWGP World Heavyweight Title

Tetsuya Naito and SANADA rose to the occasion and erased any doubts of their stature within New Japan, completing the nearly impossible task of going on after Bryan Danielson and Kazuchika Okada. The pair exchanged finishers and nearfalls while putting Tokyo Dome on its feet and screaming in unison after Naito proved to be the man with the most fighting spirit on this particular night.

NJPW World TV Title

After his surprise usurping of the New Japan Presidency, company Ace Hiroshi Tanahashi put an exclamation point on his 2024 voyage to steer Antonio Inoki’s ship into uncharted waters.

Zack Sabre Jr. had claimed he would become the New Japan Prime Minister, form a Cabinet and work to Nationalize NJPW – but his grand plans were not to be, as the belt finds just its second champion in Tana after a prolific run of special matches by ZSJ.

IWGP Global Heavyweight Title

More white & gold came into the New Japan picture with the conclusion of a triple-threat match between AEW’s Will Ospreay and Jon Moxley vs. David Finaly for the new IWGP Global Heavyweight Title. Although War Dogs ran interference in the bout, Ospreay dispatched them with cooperation from Mox. The three men exchanged finishers until, in the end, Finlay won the belt with a clean finish.

Finaly stuffed his newly won title in the face of Nic Nemeth (fka Dloph Ziggler) before the two started fisticuffs that spilled into the audience for several minutes. The former WWE world champion looks to be Finlay’s first challenger for the belt replacing the IWGP U.S. Title.

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title

In yet another extraordinary match in a full catalog of them, Hiromu Takahashi and El Desperado fought in a strong-style bout that could have easily gone on last. Hiromu said before the match he wouldn’t fight Desperado again unless, in fact, they are booked as the main event giving new President Hiroshi Tanahashi some food for thought.

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag-Team Titles

The IWGP Jr. Heavyweight titles were the first belts to change hands, sparkling in new white leather around the waists of Catch 2/2.

TJ Perkins and Francesco Akira (now 2x IWGP Jr. tag-title champs) found their inner yokai, or so it seems, as the tandem found a new look and new style in the ring with darker undertones and fresh tactics.

NJPW Strong and IWGP Heavyweight Tag-Team Title Unification

Guerillas of Destiny went 2-for-2 at the Big Egg when the GoD team of El Phantasmo and Hikuleo beat Bishamon to become the new heavyweight tag-team champions of New Japan. Bishamon has been a strong, dependable pairing for New Japan across two recent title reigns but GoD gives the company a unique tandem with a high ceiling and plenty of creativity that refreshes the tag-team title scene to kick off the new year.

NEVER Openweight Title

Tama Tonga came out on top against Shingo Takagi, even kicking out of Shingo’s finisher in the process. After proudly hoisting the title Tama’s been associated with for much of the past few years, he made the shocking announcement that January is his last month in New Japan. It remains to be seen if Tama’s taking the belt with him back to America, or how his long NJPW career is set to finish.

All Photos by Masahiro Kubota for MP

 

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