The main event of Wrestle Kingdom 11 on Wednesday, the 2017 edition of New Japan Pro Wrestling's annual January 4 Tokyo Dome show, was a battle for not only the IWGP Heavyweight Championship but also the future of the promotion.
For the third time in his career, Kazuchi Okada entered his bout against Kenny Omega as champion. Omega -- the leader of the Bullet Club -- made it clear he felt he was the right man to serve as the frontman for the promotion as it moved into the future.
In the months leading up to the showdown, the two built up significant bad blood. That was on display in the match with Okada wanting to put a table in play early. Omega worked over the lower back of Okada with forearms and a slam onto the ring apron.
Omega scored with a beautiful dive from the ring to Okada on the outside and followed up a short time later with a dropkick from the top rope to the back of Okada's head.
In true NJPW main event fashion, the action continued to pick up at an almost unbelievable pace down the stretch. Omega landed a huge moonsault from the top rope over the baricade outside and then a flying stomp onto a table laying on top of Okada.
Despite those huge shots and a pair of powerbombs, Okada was not yet ready to relinquish his title.
Eventually, it was Omega who went through the table at ringside, flying through the air and into the furniture on an Okada backdrop from in the ring. Okada built on the moment with his own vicious missile dropkick to a kneeling Omega before the two continued to trade momentum through huge moves.
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It took four of Okada's patented rainmakers to finally keep Omega down for the three count.
Following the bout, Okada said Omega is the top foreign wrestler in New Japan but pointed out that he was still the winner and predicted his run as champion will continue through 2017.
Naito Retains IWGP Intercontinental TitleAfter six titles changed hands in six matches, IWGP Intercontinental champion Tetsuya Naito had to be feeling the pressure heading into his co-main event bout with Hiroshi Tanahashi.
Naito continued his run as one of the most confident and disrespectful men in the sport, going so far as to spit in the eye of Tanahashi. This, of course, motivated the challenger to up his game. And up his game, he did.
After a run of Naito offense, Tanahashi landed a Sling Blade on the ring apron, followed by a High Fly Flow from the top rope to the outside, crashing down on Naito's head.
The battle between the two rivals settled into a war of knee attacks. With both men working over the left knee of their opponent, Tanahashi was the man who reversed a submission attempt into a nasty-looking cloverleaf.
After the men traded heavy kicks to the knee, Tanahashi hit a dragon suplex that was unable to get the three count. He then took to the top rope and landed a High Fly Flow to the back of Naito before rolling him over and heading back up top for a second. This time, however, Naito got the knees up.
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After blocking the splash, Naito took over, landing a series of big moves, capped off by a Destino for the three count. Naito became the first man at Wrestle Kingdom 11 to hold on to his championship.
A wrestler does not just win the NEVER Openweight title, he has to earn it. That's exacty what Hirooki Goto did when he finished off Katsuyori Shibata to win the belt.
Goto Pins Shibata For NEVER Openweight Title
The division is known for its hard-hitting style, and Goto and Shibata didn't disappoint in that respect.
Shibata spent a period of the match brutalizing Goto. Goto utilized headbutts to get back in the swing of the match. It was those headbutts that eventually led Goto to glory.
The two men traded sickening head-to-head blows until Goto got the upper hand and landed a pair of GTRs for the win.
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Takahashi Tops KUSHIDA For IWGP Jr. TitleWith the IWGP Jr. title on the line, Hiromu Takahashi continued the streak of challengers getting the best of champions, scoring the pinfall victory over KUSHIDA.
The fantastic match was loaded with exciting moments from the opening bell. KUSHIDA scored first blood with a big senton to the floor very early in the bout. He also caught Takahashi with a midair armbar outside the ring.
Takahashi was resilient, though, and after a running Death Valley Driver into the buckle and The Time Bomb, he was able to score the victory and capture the championship.
The match really got the crowd going heading into the featured matches of the night.
Cole Captures ROH Title With Win Over O'ReillyAdam Cole started his rematch for the ROH World Heavyweight title by spitting in the face of Kyle O'Reilly. He ended it by dropping O'Reilly on his head.
O'Reilly became champion by defeating Cole at ROH Final Battle in December. The reign was short-lived; however, because three Last Shots from Cole -- the final coming after a series of brutal superkicks -- led to the three count.
Early in the matchup, Cole blasted O'Reilly in the shoulder with a chair. From that point, O'Reilly was handicapped. At multiple times, he had to bail on moves because of the pain in his shoulder.
Late in the bout, O'Reilly had to abandon a rear-naked choke attempt when the shoulder injury didn't allow him to squeeze for the submission and led to Cole's finishing sequence.
The victory marks the third time Cole has held the ROH world title, a record in the promotion.
Roppongi Vice Take Out Bucks For IWGP Jr. TitlesThe Young Bucks entered Wrestle Kingdom 11 to defend their IWGP Jr. Championships against Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero and Trent Baretta) knowing the annual Tokyo Dome event is often where title reigns go to die.
Matt and Nick Jackson are no strangers to the big stage, but that experience was not enough to save their championships.
The match got off to a clever start from The Bucks when they walked away from the ring to backstage, seemingly willing to take the count-out loss to retain their titles. After Romero and Baretta chased them down the entrance ramp, The Bucks laid out the challengers with their trademark superkick. Roppongi Vice made it back to the ring at the last second to beat the count.
After spirited back-and-forth action, The Bucks appeared close to finishing off the challengers after Baretta missed a dive to the outside, leaving a two-on-one situation.
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With the clock seemingly running out on Romero, The Bucks loaded him up to hit a More Bang For Your Buck. However, a Baretta distraction allowed Romero to turn the move into a crucifix, and he scored the three count to capture the titles.
Complete Wrestle Kingdom 11 results include:
- Kazuchika Okada def. Kenny Omega to retain IWGP Heavyweight title
- Tetsuya Naito def. Hiroshi Tanahashi to retain IWGP Intercontinental title
- Hirooki Goto def. Katsuyori Shibata to win NEVER Openweight title
- Hiromu Takahashi def. KUSHIDA to win IWGP Jr. title
- Toru Yano and Tomohiro Ishii def. Guerillas of Destiny and Great Bash Heel to win IWGP Tag Team titles
- Adam Cole def. Kyle O'Reilly to win Ring of Honor World title
- Cody def. Juice Robinson
- EVIL, BUSHI and SANADA def. Ricochet, Satoshi Kojima and David Finlay and Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi and Hangman Page to win NEVER Six-Man titles
- Roppongi Vice def. The Young Bucks to win IWGP Jr. Tag Team titles
- Tiger Mask W def. Tiger the Dark
- Michael Elgin won New Japan Rumble