Dropping the IWGP Heavyweight title opens new possibilities for Kenny Omega.
Wrestle Kingdom 13 revealed the direction of New Japan Pro Wrestling for the upcoming year.
Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Kenny Omega to win the IWGP heavyweight championship, his record-setting eighth run with the title.
Now, with all eyes set on the historic Madison Square Garden show on April 6, New Japan appears ready to deliver a must-see main event in New York City between Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada.
Another integral takeaway is that all members of The Elite lost. While the futures of Cody Rhodes, the Young Bucks, and Hangman Page have more clarity with the announcement of the new All Elite Wrestling promotion, there is far more uncertainty with Omega and Kota Ibushi, who dropped the NEVER Openweight title to Will Ospreay in the opening match after only 26 days as champion.
In the end, all eight titles on the line on the nine-match card changed hands.
Here are the results:
• Will Ospreay defeated Kota Ibushi to become the new NEVER Openweight champion
• Los Ingobernables de Japon’s Bushi and Shingo Takagi defeated Suzuki-gun’s Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado, as well as Roppongi 3K, to capture the IWGP junior heavyweight tag titles
• Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Tomohiro Ishii to win RevPro’s British Heavyweight championship
• Los Ingobernables de Japon’s Sanada and Evil became the new IWGP tag team champions in a triple-threat match win over the Young Bucks and the Guerrillas of Destiny
• Juice Robinson defeated Cody Rhodes to reclaim the IWGP United States title
• Taiji Ishimori defeated Kushida to become the new IWGP junior heavyweight champion
• Jay White defeated Kazuchika Okada
• Tetsuya Naito defeated Chris Jericho to win the IWGP Intercontinental title
• Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Kenny Omega to become the new IWGP heavyweight champion
Here are my top three takeaways from the show:
1. Dropping IWGP Heavyweight title muddles future for Kenny Omega
Even more uncertainty now surrounds the future of Kenny Omega.
While we know that Cody Rhodes, the Young Bucks, and Hangman Page will all be part of the new All Elite Wrestling promotion, Omega and Kota Ibushi dropped their respective titles at Wrestle Kingdom.
This opens up the possibility that they will have a more limited role within New Japan for the upcoming year, especially if AEW is successful in seizing the collaborative working agreement with New Japan that the company currently has in place with Ring of Honor.
Wrestle Kingdom also gave even more leverage to Chris Jericho, who shined in a no-disqualification loss to Tetsuya Naito. While Jericho is also a possibility for AEW, it is more likely that he will return to WWE for WrestleMania or remain with New Japan for a storyline with Kazuchika Okada.
2. An old Tokyo Dome maxim holds true
Those who believe that Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada are never both booked to lose on a Wrestle Kingdom card were, once again, proven correct.
New Japan occasionally books a defeat for one of the two at a Wrestle Kingdom, which is what happened at WK 13, but never both.
Okada’s defeat to Jay White—which we will spend more time on in a moment—gave an immediate indication that Tanahashi was defeating Omega for the world title, which is exactly what happened in the main event.
Tanahashi and Okada are the two signature stars of New Japan, and they are likely be placed against one another in the main event at the Madison Square Garden show, which is co-run with Ring of Honor, this April.
3. Far from dead, New Japan’s Bullet Club is alive and well
New BC leader Jay White shocked the New Japan world with his clean defeat of Okada, which provides a clear indication that the company is arming the faction with its full support.
Although most fans had grown accustomed to Omega in the lead spot for Bullet Club, White will be one of New Japan’s most heavily pushed attractions in 2019.
The 26-year-old White was superb in his match with Okada, and he now leads a group that includes key players in Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, Taiji Ishimori, Bad Luck Fale, and Gedo.
Moving forward, Saturday’s New Year’s Dash show at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo will help define the direction for the upcoming year, especially the immediate futures of Omega and Ibushi.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.