2018 is coming to a close, which means New Japan is setting the stage for their biggest show of the year, January 4th’s WrestleKingdom. As usual, these “Road To” events feature matchups involving some of the talent that will be squaring off against each other on the show.
A video package showed some of New Japan’s 2018 highlights.
WrestleKingdom 12 (1/4): IWGP United States Champion Kenny Omega retained Title over Chris Jericho, IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada retained the title over Tetsuya Naito
New Year Dash (1/5): Jay White attacks Omega after teasing that he would join Bullet Club, Jericho attacks Naito
New Beginning (1/27): Minoru Suzuki wins the Intercontinental Title from Tanahashi, and injures him to the point of being carries out on a stretcher
New Beginning (1/28): White wins the US Title from Omega, Ibushi saves Omega from a beatdown and reforms The Golden Lovers
New Beginning (2/10): Okada retains the title over SANADA
New Japan Anniversary Show (3/6): Okada beats IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion (and fellow CHAOS member) Will Ospreay in a non-title match
New Japan Cup (3/21): Zack Sabre Jr. wins the New Japan Cup, including beating a returning Tanahashi by submission, and issues a challenge to Okada
Strong Style Evolved (3/25): The Golden Lovers beat The Young Bucks
Sakura Genesis (4/1): Okada ties Tanahashi’s record of 11 IWGP title defenses by retaining over Zack Sabre Jr.
Road To Donaku (4/27): NEVER Openweight Champion Hirooki Goto retains the title over Juice Robinson.
Hinokuni (4/29): Naito wins the Intercontinental Title from Suzuki
Dontaku (5/4): Jericho returns and attacks Naito, Taji Ishimori joins Bullet Club and adopts the Bone Soldier name, Okada retains the IWGP Title over Tanahashi, setting a new record for 12 successful title defenses in a single reign
Best Of The Super Juniors 25 (6/4): Hiromu Takahashi wins teh Best of Super Juniors tournament
Dominion (6/9): Takahashi wins the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title from Will Ospreay, Jericho wins teh Intercontinental Title from Naito, Omega wins the IWGP Title from Okada
Kizuna Road (6/19): Super Strong Machine retires
Kizuna Road (6/23): Tomoaki Honma returns to the ring after a career threatening injury
G1 Special (7/7): Omega retains the IWGP Title over Cody, Guerrillas Of Destiny attack Omega, Ibushi, Cody, and The Young Bucks, kicking them out of Bullet Club
G1 Climax (7/14-8/12): Tanahashi wins G1 Tournament to win a title shot at WrestleKingdom
Destruction (9/15): Omega retains IWGP Title over Tomohiro Ishii
Destruction (9/17): Taichi wins NEVER title from Goto
Destruction (9/23): Tanahashi beats Okada for the first time in 3 years to retain the WrestleKingdom title shot, Gedo turns on Okada
Fighting Spirit Unleashed (9/30): Katsuyori Shibata’s dojo trainees debut,
King Of Pro-Wrestling (10/8): Shingo Takagi joins Los Ingobernables De Japon, Gedo, Jado join Bullet Club, White revealed as new Bullet Club leader. Omega retains IWGP Title over Ibushi & Cody
Road To Power Struggle (10/27): Tanahashi saves Okada from Bullet Club beatdown and forms alliance
Power Struggle (11/03): Roppongi 3K win Best of Super Juinor Tag Tournament, Jericho retains IWGP IC Title over Evil, Naito challenges Jericho
World Tag League Finals (12/09): EVIL & SANADA win World Tag League
That brings us to the event
Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask IV, Tomoaki Honma, & IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion KUSHIDA b. Yuya Uemera, Ren Narita, Ayato Yoshida & Toa Henare when Tiger Mask pinned Uemera with a Tiger Driver. Standard opening match fare that showcases the rookies (like these Young Lions) and the new roster additions (like Henare).
Shingo Takagi p. Shota Umino with The Last Of The Dragon. A rare singles match for an upstart young lion. This was also the New Japan singles debut of Takagi. I don’t think anybody expected Umino to win. But again, it’s about earning your stripes on the roster. Which is what Umino is doing. Takagi controlled most of the match until Umino fired up towards the end. Umino even kicked out of Takagi’s signature moves before falling to The Last Of The Dragon.
After the match, Tagaki stood Umino up and offered a handshake. Umino slapped it away, though it wasn’t clear if it was from contempt or frustration. The announcers seemed to indicate the two will meet again down the line.
Hirooki Goto & Rocky Romero b. Minoru Suzuki & Takeshi Iizuka when Romero pinned Iizuka with a roll-up. The usual brawl around the arena that happens with must Suzuki matches. Iizuka went for his metal claw, which Romero ducked. Goto leveled Iizuka with a lariat while Goto rolled him up for the win.
CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Roppongi 3K’s Sho & Yoh) b. Suzuki-Gun (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemarum, & Taichi w/ Miho Abe) when Ishii pinned Kanemaru with a Brainbuster. The heels jumped Yoh from behind, and again the heels brawled with the faces on the outside. The heels worked over Yoh until Sho got the hot tag. He ran wild, then tagged in Ishii. Taichi managed to cut off Ishii and tag in Kanemaru. In a bit of a surprise, Kanemaru anaged to hit his Deep Impact DDT on Ishii, but the pin got broken up. In the ensuing brawl, Ishii hit a lariat and finished off Kanemaru with a Brainbuster.
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, & Taiji Ishimori) b. Los Ingobernables De Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA, & BUSHI) when Loa pinned BUSHI with a Super Powerbomb. EVIL and SANADA are of course challenging Bullet Club’s Guerrillas Of Destiny for the IWGP Tag Titles at WrestleKingdom. Since BUSHI has no program going into The Dome, it makes sense that he wuld eat the pin here.
Kazuchika Okada p. Gedo with a Rainmaker. Gedo came to the on a crutch and with his arm in a sling, claiming to be in an auto accidentthat morning. Nobody bought it, of course. Okada came to the ring and said they could still have a match, it just wouldn’t be a seven star classic. Okada kicked Gedo’s crutch away, but Gedo didn’t fall. This of course exposed Gedo’s ruse. Okada tried to attack Gedo, but got sprayed in the face with a canister of something. Gedo then demanded the match be started and went on the offensive. Chair shots, stomps, and eye rakes aplenty. Whenever Okada would start any form of comeback, Gedo ran in terror. As Okada made his comeback, Jado came to the ring. Gedo lowblowed Okada after Jado interfered. Red Shoes got whipped into Okada and knocked out. With the referee down, Jay White ran out and put the boots to Okada. Rocky Romero ran in tried to fend off White. He got a Blade Runner for his troubles. However, with White suitably distracted, Okada mounted his comeback and dropkicked White out of the ring. A Rainmaker to Gedo later, and it was all over.
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe, Toru Yano, & Will Ospreay b. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega, NEVER Openwight Champion Kota Ibushi, Yujiro Takahashi, & Chase Owens when Ospreay pinned Owens with a Stormbreaker. The WrestleKingdom matches involved in this are Tanahashi challenging Omega for the IWGP Title, and Ospreay challenging Ibushi for the NEVER Openweight Title. It does seem like the entire CHAOS stable has been babyfaces since the betrayal of Okada by Gedo. It doesn’t get more babyface than teaming with Tanahashi. Even in this match alone, CHAOS members are teaming with known babyfaces. What’s even more newsworthy from a historical standpoint is the original Great Bash Heel members Makabe and Yano are teaming again as well. Takahashi and and Owens were still wearing Bullet Club gear, despite being booted from the stable earlier in the year. That said, Omega’s team wrestled like heels in this match.
Fairly even going early on until the Elite members cut off Makabe. It picked up when Tanahashi tagged in and went at it with Omega. Ospreay tagged in and got grounded by Omega. After that the Elite worked over Ospreay. This lead to the obligatory exchange with everybody hitting big moves. In the end, Ospreay rallied and hit a Stormbreaker on Owens to get the pin.
After the match, Omega cut a pomo on Tanahashi to the English announce team. Ospreay cut a promo in the ring on Ibushi. Omega leaned heel in his comments, while Ospreay sounded more babyface. Tanahashi then cut a promo thanking the fans for voting him as a sports MVP for a fourth time. He apologized that he couldn’t do any air guitar because he lost his air guitar.
Another Road To Tokyo Dome show will air on December 15th.