NJPW: Declaration of Power – Jay White vs. Tama Tonga, Antonio Inoki Homage

Jay White defended the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship against Tama Tonga in the first-ever all-international wrestler main event at Ryogoku Sumo Hall.

Photo Courtesy: NJPW

DISCLOSURE:  Karen Peterson is currently working with Bushiroad (parent company of New Japan and STARDOM) on a limited basis on a series of articles on the history of Stardom leading into the Historic X-Over event in November that will appear on their website.

In celebration of Taiiku no Hi (Sports’ Day), NJPW joined the autumn sports celebration with Declaration of Power. Declaration took the old familiar autumn big event slot of King of Pro-Wrestling and emanated from Ryogoku Sumo Hall with commentary available in English and Japanese. For the first time in seemingly forever, the band was back together with Rocky Romero returning to rejoin Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton at the booth.

Prior to the show, Yuji Nagata introduced a new prospect and member of the Noge Dojo, Khazak amateur wrestler, Oleg Boltin. A year ago, NJPW announced that there were intentions to bring him into the dojo system, but unfortunately, COVID restrictions and visa processing prevented it from happening. 

Opening: Antonio Inoki Homage 

While NJPW was in England for  Royal Quest 2, the world mourned the passing of Antonio Inoki, NJPW’s founder. At that time, it was revealed that NJPW had plans to make Inoki Honorary Lifetime Chairman at Declaration of Power. The company and fans in attendance honored Inoki with a ten-bell salute in London, and today’s show included a beautiful video package, a heartfelt address by ring announcer Kero Tanaka, and the ten-bell salute with the entire roster coming out into the arena, with Hontai, CHAOS, and TMDK at ringside and LIJ, Bullet Club in the aisles, but visibly present. President Ohbari, Chairman Sugabayashi, and Tiger Hattori were also present. 

I would like to tip my translator’s cap to Chris Charlton who maintained his composure during the exceptionally emotional homage. Wrestle Kingdom 17 will celebrate the life and legacy of Antonio Inoki with memorial details to be announced at a future date. With NJPW celebrating its 50th Anniversary, it’s heartbreaking that it included the loss of one of the names synonymous with it. 

Spoiler-Free Synopsis

  • Ren Narita’s Excursion Return Match (1/20): The Son of Strong Style Returns – Highly Recommended
  • Tag Match (1/20): Do you love the tekkers? I sure do! – Recommended
  • 6-Man Tag Match (1/20): Could The House of Torture be shuttered for good? – Worth a Watch
  • Special Tag Match (1/30): When it comes to FTR, whose got next? – Recommended
  • 8-Man Tag Match (1/30): a World and Super Junior Tag League preview all rolled into one. – Recommended
  • Special Singles Non-Title Match (1/30): Will Wato pass Ishimori’s Assessment – Recommended
  • KOPW 2022 Who’s Your Daddy Match (1/60): I’m still wondering when the stipulation vote for this match was held…
  • Special Singles Match (1/60): Will Okada absolve the one blemish on his 2022 G1 Record? – Highly Recommended
  • Main Event: The first time two foreign wrestlers close out a show in Ryogoku Sumo Hall – Highly Recommended

Ren’s Return Match & Dangerous Tekkers/TMDK were streamed live and free on YouTube

Ren Narita’s Excursion Return Match (1/20): Ren Narita, Robbies Eagles & David Finlay defeated El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI (7:28) – with Narita pinning DOUKI with a front suplex

While my coverage of NJPW here at POST is relatively new, Ren Narita was one of my favorite Young Lions. I loved his Noge Dojo journey. I loved seeing him in the Best of the Super Juniors and the Young Lion Cup in 2019. I loved seeing Shibata chop his soul out of his body after his NJPW Strong debut match. I loved the fire and grit he showed over the last three years on NJPW Strong, especially in his high-profile singles matches against Fred Rosser, Tom Lawlor, Buddy Matthews, and Juice Robinson (WHEW! RED Narita, am I right?!). I loved the look of supreme shock when Shibata announced at Wrestle Kingdom 16 that their five-minute grappling match would be a standard match. 

Now, with a joyful heart, I love that Ren Narita is back from excursion as The Son of Strong Style. Throughout his time in the LA Dojo, just about everyone saw his growth, both stylistically and physically under the tutelage of Katsuyori Shibata. While many remarked that he was the second coming of Shibata, complete with black trunks and kick pads, simply haircut, and no-nonsense attitude, Ren has managed to carve out his own brand of wrestling, merging his experiences from the Noge and LA Dojos. This match, while a six-man mix with Hontai’s David Finlay, CHAOS’ Robbie Eagles, and the charismatic trio of El Desperado, Kanemaru, and DOUKI could have easily gone in many directions, the primary focus was on Ren’s return to Japan. Everyone made a point to make the match about him, and while it might not have been the sort of return match he expected, I really enjoyed it. 

Ren Narita left for the US in September 2019, and while the pandemic extended his time abroad, NJPW Strong certainly reaped the benefits of it as Narita quickly became the underdog, fan favorite, and a staple of the program. I hope that he’ll be allowed to participate in NJPW Strong shows in the future, but honestly, from the run he had, short of becoming STRONG Openweight Champion, he left practically nothing undone. After three years of fighting openweight, I am curious to know if he will be able to do the same in Japan, or if he’ll have to run through the junior division before being given consideration. Hiromu Takahashi, El Desperado, and KUSHIDA all have been kicking at that wall for years now. 

What’s Next?

  • Ren Narita needs to fight everyone, including everyone jockeying around the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
  • Robbie Eagles needs a tag partner for Super Junior Tag League. Will he reunite with Tiger Mask IV for Flying Tigers or change it up and team with YOH, who is still gun shy after SHO‘s betrayal last year?
  • David Finlay needs a tag partner for World Tag League. With Juice signing on Bullet Club, I would love to see if Finlay could team with Hikuleo or Tama Tonga as Tanga Loa underwent surgery for his MCL and will be out the remainder of 2022.
  • El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru and DOUKI – I’m guessing that Despy and Kanemaru will continue their tag run in Super Junior Tag League and DOUKI will likely team with an outside party. Unless they want to change things up and make it interesting.

Tag Match (1/20): Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi & Zack Sabre, Jr) defeated TMDK (Shane Haste & Bad Dude Tito) (9:58) – With Zack pinning Tito with a European clutch

When TMDK emerged in NJPW Strong, it was only a matter of time before the world saw some of the best tag team wrestling around. When Tito joined JONAH in the G1, they continued to gain traction, but for me, the match-up I waited so very long for was the crossing of paths between former NOAH Dojo alums in Shane Haste and Zack Sabre, Jr. When Mikey Nicholls was in CHAOS, I sincerely hoped for the day I could see not only a TMDK reunion but in Japan where they laid some of their best foundation as tag team wrestlers. 

This match is deliciously dangerous and full of hard-hitting high-jinx. I can’t say enough wonderful things about everyone involved in this match. There is a little bit of pec-popping here and there, but for the most part not too much clowning around. Even though the match was lower on the card, it was a great tease for those wondering about the potential for World Tag League. I did love Haste keeping Tito from going after SZJ afterward and their “do-we-shake-hands-fist bump-or-hug” before giving up. I’m a sucker for sportsmanship, but it’s also a time slip in the way back machine to their early Japan days.

What’s Next? 

  • Ahead of World Tag League, Taichi and SZJ will have their hands full with Historic X-Over matches with Taichi tagging with Tam Nakano, Natsupoi, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru against El Desperado, DOUKI, Starlight Kid, and Momo Watanabe. They will likely be in the World Tag League conversation.
  • They teased it on commentary, but I am patiently awaiting the formal reunion of Mikey Nicholls with Shane Haste for WTL. With Tito and Jonah, TMDK could cause all sorts of good trouble in the tournament.

6-Man Tag Match (1/20): Hontai (Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hikuleo & Rusyuke Taguchi) defeated House of Torture (EVIL, SHO, & Yujiro w/ Dick Togo) (7:14) – with Taguchi pinning SHO (after an astronomical chokeslam from Hikuleo)

With KUSHIDA being pulled from the event due to prolonged illness, Master Wato issued a challenge to Taiji Ishimori. This resulted in the 8-man tag match being changed to a 6-man, but you know wherever Dick Togo is around there’s always an imbalance in the odds. 

At Kobe, Hikuleo finally turned his back on Jay White and ditched Bullet Club to reunite with his brother, Tama Tonga, so this is his first match tagging with Hontai. This match was definitely a showcase featuring the newly babyface Hikuleo as well as building him some momentum going into his upcoming NEVER Openweight challenge against Karl Anderson. Much like when Tama, Tanga, and Jado were kicked out, Hikuleo will be in a bit of a Bullet Club spiral, likely fighting his way through them throughout the shows leading up to Battle Autumn in November. Fresh off their reclamation of the NEVER 6-Man Openweight Championships from Goto, YOSHI-HASHI, and YOH, this was a very standard House of Torture match. 

Between him, Tanahashi, and EVIL… sweet stars there was so much fantastic hair! Also, can we talk about the height and air that SHO got with that massive chokeslam from Hikuleo?! 

What’s Next? 

  • Hikuleo will challenge Karl Anderson for the NEVER Openweight Championship at Battle Autumn (11/5) at Edion Arena in Osaka
  • With a pin on one-third of the NEVER Openweight Champions, Hikuleo, Tanahashi, and Taguchi are also now eligible to challenge House of Torture
  • If House of Torture isn’t on the Halloween-themed Night Before Rumble on 44th Street… what are we even doing?

Special Tag Match (1/30): United Empire (Jeff Cobb & Great O’Khan w/ Lord Gideon Grey) defeated BISHAMON (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) (10:09) – with Jeff Cobb pinning YOSHI-HASHI after a Tour of the Islands

Much like the Dangerous Tekkers vs TMDK match earlier in the show, the winners of this match are the fans as this is another stellar World Tag League and/or IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship match-up. Have we needed it before? Yes. Does it make me love it any less? Absolutely not. With AEW’s FTR holding the IWGP Tag Titles amongst their pile of gold, the guys in NJPW Strong as well as in Japan are all getting itchy to find out who is going to be next in line to curb the momentum of twenty-eight-star FTR.

This match was shorter than I had expected but with as ambitious and long the card wound up being, maybe it was a blessing in disguise. There wasn’t anything particularly out of the ordinary for this match, and for the most part, Lord Grey minded his business. As the defending World Tag League Winners, I sort of hoped that they would do a little more to protect Goto and YOSHI-HASHI, but it seems the next move will likely be Jeff and O’Khan. Again, I’m not mad either way as I truly enjoy both teams for different reasons. This match did have some very clooooooooose calls, which kept it exciting.  It might be the scenic route for BISHAMON via World Tag League in order to get their hats back in the IWGP Tag ring again. 

What’s Next? 

  • Jeff Cobb & Great O’Khan seem like they’ll be next up to grab revenge on FTR. They’re likely to go far in World Tag League if they are allowed to team back up this year. 
  • BISHAMON may need to fight their way through World Tag League so they aren’t stuck at the back of the queue. Hirooki Goto will tag with Maika against Utami Hayshishita and Hiroshi Tanahashi at Historic X-Over on 11/20.

8-Man Tag Match (1/30): LIJ (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi) vs. United Empire (Will Ospreay, Aaron Henare, TJP & Francesco Akira) (8:07) – with BUSHI pinning Francesco Akira after an MX

This match was chaotic in only the way LIJ and United Empire could make it by combining a preview of Ospreay/Naito for the US Championships, their likely subsequent World Tag League Entries, the threat of Hiromu/BUSHI to the security of the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championships belonging to TJP and Francesco Akira AND *deep breath* two potential teams for the Super Junior Tag League all rolled up into one neat little package. While there are stories laced throughout the match, the popularity of both factions honestly doesn’t need any particular deep storytelling behind it. If you wanted to show someone a single match that included a taste of every single thing NJPW could potentially provide in less than ten minutes, this could very well be the one you share. 

The history of LIJ runs deep at Ryogoku Sumo Hall, and today was no exception as in the midst of all that was going on, a masked man took advantage of a fallen official, to tip the scales in LIJ’s favor. BUSHI capitalized and got the win, and usually, I might be salty about the run-in, but I was pleasantly surprised to see who the secret assailant was!

Titán Appeals to LIJ?! During the melee, a masked man made his presence known by serving up Francesco Akira to BUSHI. At first, I thought it could have been noticeably absent, YOH, but the individual had a deep tan and a chest scar that peeked out from his unbuttoned shirt. I couldn’t tell if LIJ expected this, especially since Titán in his multiple tours of Japan wrestled as a technico. He asked for a mic and appealed to LIJ, who were all as surprised as everyone else to see him and this new attitude! They took a vote in only the way LIJ could: via fist bump. 

I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and for someone to trick him, but they properly welcomed him in as the first non-Japanese member of the de Japon branch of Los Ingobernables. (Yes, in the past there have been tags featuring the original Los Ingobernables and later members of Faccione de Ingobernable, but this appears to be the first proper, permanent addition). 

What’s Next? 

  • Naito will challenge Ospreay for the IWGP US Heavyweight Championship at Battle Autumn (11/5) at Edion Arena in Osaka
  • BUSHI and Hiromu Takahashi are now at the front of the line to get a shot at TJP and Akira Francesco’s IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championships.
  • SANADA and Henare are the likely World Tag League partners once Naito and Ospreay put Battle Autumn behind them.
  • Should Hiromu finally go heavyweight, a double-masked man tag between BUSHI and Titán could be really fun and peak, must-see sartorial levels.

NJPW World Television Championship – What I like about this title is the fifteen-minute time limit. It feels like a bit of a combination of STARDOM’s NEO High-Speed Championship and American wrestling promotions with a focus on younger wrestlers. A tournament will be held to determine the first champion and the matches will be streamed on NJPW World. 

Special Singles Non-Title Match (1/30): Master Wato defeated Taiji Ishimori (14:40) with Reciemente II

In a last-minute substitution, Master Wato found himself with the opportunity of his wrestling lifetime. Yes, it was a non-title match, but as we always know, non-title matches can turn into championship opportunities if one plays their cards right. With Wato filling in for a sidelined KUSHIDA, I went into this match cautiously optimistic but prepared myself for Ishimori to have a quick and decisive win over Wato. However, I was pleasantly surprised. 

With twenty years of experience, Ishimori has a wealth of knowledge and experience. He draws the best out of everyone he stands in the ring with, especially when he is left to his own devices and without the troublemaker influence of ELP. Does he fight dirty, it feels more authentic to who he is as a wrestler and decorated champion. One of his best assets is his ability to add control to some of Wato’s wilder, braver moves, as well as help Wato look and feel like a credible contender. With as protected as the Cipher Utaki tends to be, I like that it was the move Wato chose to slam the brakes on. The Bloody Cross would have been a challenge to stop, and more importantly, I prefer the flash pin over trying to tap Ishimori out. Even though Wato made El Desperado give up earlier this year, I appreciate him getting creative and trying to think outside the box in toppling the seasoned veterans. 

Junior Heavyweight Appeal Pandemonium! Just when Master Wato finally bests Ishimori and prepares to demand his shot at the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, he’s not only interrupted by Hiromu Takahashi but also El Desperado. I feel bad for Wato because much like this match with Hiromu and Desperado in the conversation, he’s got not one but two exceptionally tall additional walls to scale in addition to Ishimori. While I know the original play may or may not have been KUSHIDA reclaiming the Junior title, I don’t have the confidence to say that NJPW would let Wato defeat three former champions in this future four-way match. 

As Ishimori, El Desperado and Hiromu are all multiple-time Jr. Heavyweight Champions, none of them need the championship. They’ve all done more than enough with it. Same with KUSHIDA. I just hope that there are plans in place to start focusing on the other juniors in the division like Wato, YOH, SHO, Eagles (who deserved a longer run with the championship), and potentially Narita.

What’s Next?

  • Taiji Ishimori will have his hands full with Master Wato, El Desperado, and Hiromu Takahashi with a Four Way IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship defense. Could easily be added to Battle Autumn in Osaka on 11/5.

KOPW 2022 Who’s Your Daddy Match (1/60): Shingo Takagi © defeated El Phantasmo (16:01) with a Grounded Octopus Hold

I genuinely did not know what to make of this match. I feel like while they did explain the reasoning behind it, there was a bit that was lost in translation. In 2022, we saw Shingo Takagi as the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, but his KOWP reign makes me feel like this is his Balloon Okada phase where he’s just having fun. Unlike most of the other KOPW matches, this defense wasn’t put to a fan vote. The format was just a standard wrestling match without any additional frills.  It just involved humiliation for the loser. 

Commentary suggested that it wasn’t a machine to move t-shirts, but I am curious to see those Tokon Shop, venue, and Tokon Shop Global numbers. Seeing something in LIJ font that isn’t red and white on a black shirt was quite refreshing. However, the context is awkward. 

ELP conceded and in his loss proclaimed that “Shingo is (his) Daddy…” a sentence I never thought I would have to write. Ever. To his credit, The Headbanga was very much a good sport with the t-shirt, the pacifier, and the hug… but the moment was cut short. In the wake of his loss, ELP exacted some revenge on his new paternal unit with a low blow and a stomp that shattered the trophy. Maybe by Wrestle Kingdom, they’ll let the trophy rest in pieces… and Shingo will be back in the title picture. 

What’s Next?

  • With the addition of Titán to LIJ, it makes me wonder if Shingo Takagi could possibly be tagging with either Naito, SANADA or Hiromu Takahashi, especially after Hiromu’s 2020 New Japan Cup and recording breaking BOSJ wins and multiple 
  • With the G1, El Phantasmo stressed that he wanted to go heavyweight, but we’ll have to see if it sticks when WTL comes around. With Chris Bey, Ace Austin, Ishimori and SHO as potential Super Junior Tag combinations, and former WTL Winner Juice Robinson without a partner, since he abandoned Finlay, there is the possibility that ELP could continue alongst the heavyweights. 

Special Singles Match (1/60): Kazuchika Okada defeated JONAH (19:53) with a Rainmaker/Pin

Much like Jay White, Kazuchika Okada had a single blemish on his G1 Climax 32 record. This year, JONAH wade waves not only on NJPW Strong, but in the Monster Block of G1. We got to see shades of arrogant and sly Okada, someone we haven’t seen too much of recently. The match was hard-hitting and well-fought, but also very similar to their G1 match. While the prospect of JONAH defeating Okada again and inserting himself into the Tokyo Dome main event sounded like a definite possibility, with the Junior Heavyweight multi-man announced earlier in the night for an undisclosed date in the future, I am glad Okada balanced his checkbook with a clean win and a respectful display of sportsmanship. It was good, but nothing particularly out of the ordinary for either of them. 

With a very emotional opening to the show and the fact that Okada has spent 2022 with the fifty-year history of NJPW on his entrance gown, I was hard pressed to not give up hope that Okada would reconcile his singular G1 loss and cement his place in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 17. Okada walked out of Wrestle Kingdom 16 as the World Heavyweight Champion, but after several great defenses lost the championship to Jay White at Dominion in June. The back-to-back wins in the G1 only amplified Okada’s momentum, but only Okada could get away with a bold declaration that “if someone wants to get to the Tokyo Dome main event, they’ll need to beat Jay and walk in as champion” instead of having a rights to challenge certificate like previous years. Much like him carrying the V4 Heavyweight Championship instead of a briefcase, it feels like Okada is in an entire league of his own. 

What’s Next?

  • Okada and the winner of Jay White/Tama Tonga will have the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 17. However, I would like to also see him in World Tag League, likely with Ishii.
  • JONAH will regroup with TMDK and put together an action plan for World Tag League. He and Bad Dude Tito could be a monster match-up!

Main Event: IWGP World Heavyweight Championship (1/60): Jay White © vs. Tama Tonga (31:07) with a Bladerunner/Pin

There was something special with the first-ever main event with two foreign wrestlers that were taught in the New Japan dojo. With the continued growth and evolution of Bullet Club in recent years, everything came to a head in March when Jay White machinated the calculated yet surprisingly unceremonious expulsion of Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, and Jado. Last year, Tonga served Okada one of his only losses in the tournament, putting his name into the conversation of individuals to keep a keen eye on in 2022. Tama’s brief, but satisfying NEVER Openweight championship win over EVIL kept him in the conversation. In the G1, Tama would deny Jay White advancement into the finals against Kazuchika Okada with a crucial win and a rather solid G1 run. As the lone blemish on White’s 2022, G1 record Tonga punched his ticket to Declaration of Power. 

When Jay first turned on Okada to join Bullet Club, bringing Gedo in tow, I understood the necessity of him having a manager. However, the defected to BC in October 2018, he was World Champion by January 2019, and main evented Madison Square Garden in April 2019. After that, there hasn’t been any need for Jay White to have a manager. He’s well-spoken, even when he’s screaming at the top of his lungs. He has the ability, charisma, and ring acumen that having Gedo or others get involved in his match at this point, feels like training wheels. I understand the concept of working smarter not harder, but it takes me out of matches when it’s too heavily relied upon. He’s highly skilled and exceptionally proficient on his own. However, when White’s cornered and desperate, he’s at his most dangerous.

I did appreciate Tama’s temporary crisis of faith when the chair was brought into the ring. Jay White dared him and practically begged him to throw his championship opportunity away for a momentary whiff of revenge. What I have enjoyed about seeing this babyface Tama is that he’s so familiar with Jay and his bag of tricks that he finds himself conflicted from time to time. Finding the balance between being a reformed bad boy without being Jay White’s doormat has been an interesting journey for Tama. What Jay brings to the table, aside from the championship, is his own growth as a wrestler over the last few years, working in the United States and on NJPW Strong. 

With the final third of the year leading toward Wrestle Kingdom 17 in January, and limited large events remaining, I do like that this match was given time. Time to be built. Time to simmer into a roiling boil. Time to breathe…  While their feud is far from over, I feel like everything circulating around Jay-Tama-EVIL-Bullet Club-and-HoT doesn’t really need any championships involved moving forward. This is a pure-blood feud, but I feel like it’s going to be scooted on the back burner until Jay loses the title. 

With World Tag League on the horizon, I wonder if Jay will sit the tournament out as the reigning champion, or if NJPW will have any additional defenses on the menu for him on the road to WK17.

What’s Next?

  • Tama Tonga will likely regroup with GOD and Hontai to come up with a plan for World Tag League.
  • Jay White is on a collision course with Kazuchika Okada, the man he betrayed in CHAOS to strike out and take over Bullet Club. 

On paper, Declaration of Power felt like a solid, autumn tour stop. However, I rather enjoyed it and there were some surprises along the way. I didn’t find any of the outcomes surprising as they all felt logical. With the tag leagues on the horizon in mid-November, we’ll have to see what changes are brought in the coming weeks with the changing of the fall colors. With the resources available, it would be my hope that moving forward more of the promo videos have either English language subtitles or voiceovers.

Upcoming Schedule

  • Battle Autumn (11/5) Edion Arena, Osaka 
  • The Night Before & Rumble of 44th Street (10/27-28) Palladium Times Square
  • NJPW Tamashii (11/11 & 11/13) Christchurch, NZ & Sydney, AU
  • NJPW x STARDOM: Historic X-Over (11/20) Ariake Arena
  • Super Junior and World Tag League (11/21-12/14)
  • Wrestle Kingdom 17 (1/4/2023) Tokyo Dome
About Karen Peterson 115 Articles
Occasionally drops by wrestling podcasts, but remains rather elusive. Joined the Japanese wrestling fan scene in summer 2017, and continues to work on bridging the language gap between fans. Outside of wrestling, she’s a dog mom, perpetual Japanese learner, and when conditions permit, world traveler. Never skips dessert.