The main event of NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom 9 event saw an IWGP Heavyweight Championship bout between Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada.
Okada attempts a wrist lock early, that ends up as a Tanahashi headlock. Okada takes it over and holds it in place for a few minutes. While they work the rests, JR talks about how Hiroshi was the wrestler that turned New Japan around in the last decade, but Okada will be the one to carry them into the future.
Eventually the champ gets out of the headlock and they back off. They lock up yet again, but Okada decides he’s had enough of the slow start and throws a stiff elbow. Tanahashi does the same and they trade forearms in the corner with the referee not even trying to get in between them. The action spills to the floor and Okada gets a bit boot that sends them over the barricade. He hits the Hangman’s DDT (shades of Randy Orton) and rolls back into the ring to break the count.
Not done yet, Okada rolls out and they fight up the ramp. He sets up for the Tombstone, but Tanahashi fights back with stiff shots. Elbow trades lead to a massive Fireman’s Carry slam from Okada, right on the ramp. Finally they take it back to the ring, and Okada is 100% in control as he connects with a baseball slide to the face.
Tanahashi fights back by rolling out of the way of a senton, and hits a flying forearm followed by a senton of his own off the second rope. The momentum doesn’t last long, as Okada rolls into a cross arm breaker with a modified sleeper that puts him back in control.
He gets a bit too cocky and lets the champ get up, screaming at him to hit him in the face. Tanahashi throws elbows and closed fists but every time Okada decks him and comes back for more. Challenger throws three elbows, then gets a fourth in the corner, followed by a dropkick that sends Tanahashi inside-out into the bottom turnbuckle. He goes for a Samoan Drop but the champ avoids it and rolls him up for a two-count.
For the first time in 15 minutes, the champion rallies back and hits a few big power moves. He gets off a release suplex and then heads tot he top rope, but comes up empty on the High Fly Flow (frog splash). This puts Okada right back in control, and he comes off the ropes with a diving elbow drop. He motions for the Rainmaker but Tanahashi avoids it and counters with a Dragon Screw!
The champ works the leg and now he finally has an opening. The match has been around the younger guy putting down the older guy, btu JR makes the point that age means nothing if Okada’s knee is blown out. Okada spills hard over the barricade and Tanahashi rolls back in to break the count. He goes to the top rope and, despite huge protest from commentary, hits the High Fly Flow from the ring, over the barricade and takes them both down!!
Tanahashi rolls Okada back into the ring and goes for the High Fly Flow a third time; Okada counters and looks for the Rainmaker; Tanahashi counters and hits the Slingblade! The champ comes off the ropes but is dead-lifted by Okada! Challenger looks for the Tombstone, but Tanahashi reverses, then Okada reverses…Tanahashi reverses again and hits the Tombstone Piledriver!
Both guys are down. After a minute, the champion is back to his feet first. Okada fights back with a hard uppercut. Tanahashi nods in acknowledgement, and it’s uppercut time for him as well. He hits the Slingblade again and motions for the Rainmaker! He goes for it, but Okada counters and hits the Rainmaker! 1…2…kick-out!
At the count of nine, both guys are to their knees exchanging elbow shots. Nobody has energy left (including me). They get to their feet, still throwing elbows. Both guys are putting everything into just standing at this point, until Okada throws a massive uppercut. He goes for the Tombstone, but Tanahashi rolls threw into a two-count.
The champ hits a picture perfect Florida Key for the closest two-count I’ve ever seen. He hits a bridging German suplex but Okada holds on and tries for the Rainmaker; Tanahashi dodges and rolls him up for another nearfall. Getting desperate, Tanahashi goes into the ropes and hits a second and third Dragon Screw using them for leverage. He hits the High Fly Flow while Okada is trapped in the ropes, then does a fourth Dragon Screw. Yet ANOTHER High Fly Flow connects…but Tanahashi goes to the top and hits ANOTHER High Fly Flow 1…2…3.
Winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi
After that 35+ minute match, Okada is seen leaving, broken down in tears after his main event loss. Tanahashi gets on the mic and calls him out. JR mentions they’re rivalry is tied at three wins each, so we imagine Tanahashi is asking for match seven at some point. He finishes off the night talking to his people. He teases leaving, but then ends up coming back. He motions to one of the ringside aids for something under the ring, and is…given an air guitar. An electric guitar solo sounds over the arena as he does some air guitar to send the crowd home happy.
We do find out what Tanahashi actually said was that Okada is a long way from being the face of New Japan, and that he is still proud to be the IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
Full Wrestle Kingdom 9 Results:
Yuji Nagata wins 15-man New Japan Rumble
reDRagon (Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly) (c) def. Forever Hooligans (Alex Koslov and Rocky Romero),
Time Splitters (Alex Shelley and Kushida) and The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima and Tomoaki Honma def. Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Jeff Jarrett and Yujiro Takahashi)
Mikey Nicholls, Naomichi Marufuji, Shane Haste and Toru Yano def. Suzukigun (Davey Boy Smith, Jr., Lance Archer, Shelton X Benjamin and Takashi Iizuka)
Minoru Suzuki def. Kazushi Sakuraba (knockout or submission only to win)
Togi Makabe def. Tomohiro Ishii for the NEVER Openweight Championship
Kenny Omega def. Ryusuke Taguchi for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Meiyu Tag (Hirooki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata) def. Bullet Club (Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson) for the IWGP Tag Team Championship
A.J. Styles def. Tetsuya Naito
Shinsuke Nakamura (c) def. Kota Ibushi for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) def. Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship