It’s been a huge weekend for NJPW, starting with Friday’s Wrestle Kingdom 13 and followed up by Saturday’s New Year Dash, the time that New Japan closes the chapters on the previous year’s storylines and sets up the direction that the new year will take them. It was a hard reboot of sorts for New Japan on Friday at the Tokyo Dome, as every title defended changed hands, while on Saturday, a little bit of forgiveness resulted in the strengthening of one faction.
#AndNEW: Will Ospreay Wins NEVER Openweight Championship
In a classic match to start the event, Will Ospreay‘s ascension from the Junior Heavyweight division (where he’s already a 2x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion) to the Heavyweight division may have gotten a little clearer, as he defeated Kota Ibushi in a fantastic match to win his first NEVER Openweight Championship. The title loss will no doubt lead into speculation that Ibushi may also be finishing up with New Japan to join his Elite cohorts (and Golden Lovers partner Kenny Omega) elsewhere.
#AndNEW: BUSHI & Shingo Takagi Win IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles
— BUSHI (@BUSHI_njpw) January 4, 2019
The impact of former Dragon Gate Ace and 4x Open the Dream Gate Champion Shingo Takagi joining New Japan’s Los Ingobernables de Japon last year prior to the Junior World Tag League has finally paid off, as he and BUSHI brought the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team titles to LIJ for the factions first big win of the evening.
#AndNEW: Zack Sabre Jr. Wins RevPro British Heavyweight Championship
Congratulations Zack!!!! pic.twitter.com/9uY1DtmPfL
— ＴＡＫＡみちのく (@takam777) January 4, 2019
Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Tomohiro Ishii to capture his third RevPro Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship, making him the first man to ever capture the title on three occasions with RevPro. Alongside fellow Suzuki-gun mate Minoru Suzuki, he’s also one half of the RevPro British Tag Team Champions, so Suzuki-gun has strengthened their hold on the British part of New Japan’s expansion.
#AndNEW: EVIL & SANADA Win IWGP Tag Team Championships
— EVIL (@151012EVIL) January 4, 2019
LIJ won their second set of titles on Friday, when EVIL & SANADA reclaimed the IWGP Tag Team titles in a triple threat with champions Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) and The Young Bucks. It’s their second reign in the past year, not to mention back to back wins at the NJPW World Tag League tournaments in 2017 and 2018.
#AndNEW: Juice Robinson Wins IWGP United States Title
Juice Robinson became the first man to hold the IWGP US title twice, when he defeated Cody Rhodes for the belt on Friday night.
#AndNEW: Taiji Ishimori Wins IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Bullet Club added one belt into their trophy case on Friday night, when the new “Bone Soldier”, former Pro Wrestling NOAH star and 3x GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion Taiji Ishimori, defeated KUSHIDA for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.
#AndNEW: Tetsuya Naito Wins IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Tetsuya Naito vanquished his year-long rival Chris Jericho on Friday night, capturing his third IWGP Intercontinental Championship and adding more gold to the LIJ locker room.
#AndNEW: Hiroshi Tanahashi Wins IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Hiroshi Tanahashi completed his comeback of 2018 by winning his unprecedented 8th IWGP Heavyweight Championship in a shocking win over Kenny Omega. Tanahashi’s 8 IWGP titles move him firmly ahead of Tatsumi Fujinami‘s six reigns and four ahead of Kazuchika Okada‘s four. A possible sign of foreshadowing the future of Omega, who was carried out by the Young Bucks in possibly his final New Japan match – Omega was absent on Saturday for New Year Dash.
— The Young Bucks® (@MattJackson13) January 5, 2019
Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi Return To Bullet Club
Ever since Tama Tonga and the Firing Squad cleaned house on Bullet Club, two members who had been loyal to the Tongan side – “The Crown Jewel” Chase Owens and “The Tokyo Pimp” Yujiro Takahashi – have been left in the cold. They would occasionally team up with members of the Elite afterwards, but they were never actually inducted into the Elite and were no longer Bullet Club. The pair were soldiers without an army. But on Saturday night at New Year Dash, Owens and Yujiro returned to help Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa and Ishimori retain their NEVER 6-Man Tag Team Championships and were welcomed back into Bullet Club.
— The 'Good Bad Guy' Tama Tonga (@Tama_Tonga) January 5, 2019
Jay White Turns Sights On Tanahashi and IWGP Title
Following the main event for New Year Dash, that saw Bullet Club’s Jay White, Bad Luck Fale & Gedo defeat the trio of Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi and a returning YOSHI-HASHI, Jay White laid a vicious beat down on the new IWGP Heavyweight Championship, declaring that Tanahashi and his title was the next obstacle for “The Switchblade”. White has had some history with Tanahashi since his return from excursion in late 2017, where he challenged Tanahashi to a fight for his then IWGP Intercontinental title at Wrestle Kingdom 12 last year. Though he lost that match, White would go on to defeat Tanahashi in singles action during 2018’s G1 Climax tournament. At NJPW King of Pro Wrestling in October, White was unsuccessful in wrestling away Tanahashi’s WK13 contract for the IWGP title match, but now that Tanahashi has claimed the gold, White is once again setting his sights on the “Ace”.