Wrestle Kingdom 17 in Yokohama Arena Report: NJPW x NOAH

New Japan and NOAH return to Yokohama Arena for the sequel of their Wrestle Kingdom rivalry from 2022. LIJ and KONGO square off in a Best of Five singles series while Okada and Kiyomiya implode.

English commentary featured Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton as the pay-per-view was available on NJPW World for international subscribers. NOAH’s English commentary team will be adding their perspective as well for a later date release on Wrestle Universe sometime after the Ameba PPV broadcast embargo expires on January 27th. Viewers could not switch freely between Japanese and English commentary on this event, as the Japanese broadcast was done via Abema (and was region-locked unless one had a VPN and could buy a separate viewing ticket on Abema as well). 

The PPV was advertised as approximately costing $29.50 after the conversion, but with the fluctuation of the yen, I wound up paying $32.14.

The rather short Road to NJPW x NOAH 2

  • KONGO dropped by the Tokyo Dome to fire the first shot at LIJ much like the NOAH roster did last year. Instead of taking over the ring mid-show, this happened in the backstage comments area, during the show as mentioned previously in my Wrestle Kingdom 17 Event Report.
  • There was an emergency press conference held to announce the entire card, and at its center was the best of five series between KONGO and LIJ. With two participants holding on to championships, I was hoping that Hiromu and Shingo’s matches would be made into title defenses, but they already had their title matches set for the New Beginning tour by this point. 
  • LIJ returned the favor by accepting KENOH’s invitation to come to a NOAH show to see what they’re all about. Instead of buying tickets to the show, they just strolled into the merch area at the venue ‘unattended.’ Naito bought and paid for a KONGO shirt which came with an autograph ticket and photo with KONGO. LIJ caused a massive commotion as they beat KONGO to their signing table and hung out while they waited. KONGO arrived after their match, and agreed to treat them like customers and as professionals by signing the purchased t-shirt. They even had to call Tadasuke in the locker room as he wasn’t with them, and Naito-kun wanted ALL of the signatures from KONGO. KENOH later issued a bounty for LIJ for not paying for admission to the show when they admitted to not buying tickets, but the NOAH staff let them in the building anyway. 
  • KENOH did a two-part analysis of Tetsuya Naito on his own YouTube channel in the lead up to the show. Part one focuses on his childhood through 2011, and the second focuses on the core of his career. In part two, he talks about Naito’s career, including the time his IWGP challenge against Kazuchika Okada was the semi-main event (or double main event one) due to the fan vote that put the International Championship between Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura at the match that would close the show.
    • NOTE: KENOH stopped laughing when the video director pointed out “just like you and Kiyomiya at this year’s NOAH THE NEW YEAR show (due to Great Muta/Nakamura being the final match on the show). KENOH realized in that moment that he and Naito have their similarities as well as their differences.
  • There was an English pre-show with Kelly and Charlton released on NJPW Global’s YouTube Channel. They highlighted the partisan cheering crowd as well as touched on some details about the NOAH roster for those new to NOAH.

Spoiler-Free Synopsis

  • 0-1 Opening Match: The Future of Both Companies Face-Off – Worth a Watch
  • 0-2 Opening Match: Love a heated hoss fight – Recommended
  • 8-Man Tag: Does Marufuji join KENTA in Bullet Club?! – Recommended 
  • Singles Match: The Luchador & The Flying Playboy – Highly Recommended
  • 6-Man Juniors Match: High Speed Rhapsody in Blue & Green – Recommended
  • Tag Match: The Supernova explodes – Recommended
  • KONGO/LIJ 1: Who is willing to get their hands dirtiest? – Worth a Watch
  • KONGO/LIJ 2: Hiromu’s first step in his personal Super Junior Dream Show – Worth a Watch
  • KONGO/LIJ 3: Friends turned Forever Rivals – Recommended
  • KONGO/LIJ 4: The Dragon & the Dark Wolf – Highly Recommended
  • KONGO/LIJ 5: Señor Tranquilo vs. Mister Zero Chill – Highly Recommended


The Abema Pre-show is much like NOAH pre-shows including a panel discussion, both opening matches, an homage to the late Jay Briscoe, and the 8-man tag featuring Sugiura, Kojima, Yano & Tanahashi vs. Marufji, KENTA, ELP & Gedo.  

The two-hour pre-show broadcast led by Haruo Murata featured Tsumugi Mitani (NJPW TV host & TV Asahi Announcer) in her LIJ jersey and Rina Matsuki (actress; guest host on NOAH programming) in her KONGO jersey in celebration of the best of five series between Los Ingobernables de Japon.

Kick-Off Show

NJPW (Ryohei Oiwa & Kosei Fujita) defeated NOAH (Yasutaka Yano & Taishi Ozawa) (12:12) – with Fujita submitting Ozawa with a Boston Crab

I always enjoy the simplicity and pure wrestling that is often at the center of the rookie’s matches. At last year’s NJPW x NOAH show, Fujita and Yano had a singles match, so I like that they brought in that continuity. Adding Oiwa and the recently debuted Ozawa (he debuted in NOAH in September 2022). I did like that the exchange was relatively balanced between the companies for this match, up until the end. 

After the match, some accounting was being sorted out between Fujita and Yano as they compared receipts. Fujita has a bit more of an aggressive edge since he was recruited into TMDK. While Oiwa looked down at Ozawa, he really didn’t attack him much. Yano took Ozawa and left, but I am feeling like this isn’t going to be the end for any of this. 

What’s Next?

  • NJPW: The New Beginning Tour starts tomorrow in Nagoya. 
  • NOAH: Yano will tag with Alejandro and Junta Miwawaki tomorrow at BYE BYE MUTA against Yoshinari Ogawa, Eita and Nosawa Rongai.

NOAH (Masa Kitamiya & Daiki Inaba) defeated NJPW (Tomohiro Ishii & Oskar Leube) (10:28) – with Kitamiya pinning Leube

Do you love a good hoss fight? I sure do. Kitamiya and Ishii opening the match did not disappoint. Leube seems more confident than he was last year, and Inaba really showed that the size of the dog in the fight doesn’t matter. I sincerely hope that this match is merely an appetizer for a much more robust wrestling buffet because man even as a pre-show match with zero build it was still a great fight. It reminded me of when Ishii was NEVER Openweight Champion and now I want Kitamiya and Inaba to fight their way into the NEVER division, even just to visit. Or send Ishii to NOAH for a spell to feud over the GHC National Championship.

What’s Next?

  • NJPW: Ishii will face ZSJ for the NJPW World TV Championship at New Beginning in Sapporo on February 5th. However, the way he went after both Kitamiya and Inaba in the post-match, I have a feeling he has unfinished business with NOAH as well. 
  • NOAH: Kitamiya and Inaba will team with Yoshiki Inamura tomorrow at BYE BYE MUTA against a trio of Good Looking Guys (yes, that is their actual group name, I am not editorializing) with Jake Lee, Jack Morris, and Anthony Greene.

Honoring Jay Briscoe

Before the start of the main card, both New Japan and NOAH honored the passing of Jay Briscoe with a ten-bell salute. Tanahashi and Marufuji represented their respective companies in the ring, by holding portraits of Briscoe. Marufuji was joined by the NOAH roster (including Sugiura & Kojima; minus KONGO) and Tanahashi was followed by the participants of Hontai and CHAOS (without LIJ or Bullet Club) at ringside. NJPW announcer, Makoto Abe outlined the history of the Briscoe Brothers in both companies as well as a short explanation of his passing to the audience in attendance. After the salute, they also played the Briscoes theme music.

WK17 in Yokohama Arena Begins!

Sugiura-gun (Takashi Sugiura & Satoshi Kojima) and Toru & Hiroshi (Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toru Yano) defeated MARUKEN (Naomichi Marufuji & KENTA) and Bullet Club (El Phantasmo & Gedo) (12:20) – with Yano pinning Gedo

At the center of this match, was the circulating question of if the Heir to the Arc, Naomichi Marufuji, planned on joining Bullet Club!? At NOAH THE NEW YEAR, he and KENTA reunited for the first time in over eight years to bring back their wildly successful MARUKEN tag to challenge Sugiura and Kojima for the GHC Tag Team Championships. Unfortunately, Marufuji and KENTA came up short on January first. This match was simply a fun grab bag of NJPW and NOAH veterans tagging together. Taka and Satoshi teamed with Toru and Hiroshi (in name only as they were not dressed for Bep Bop Tag League) and MARUKEN found itself tied up in Bullet Club NonsenseTM with ELP and Gedo. 

Hey, why isn’t anyone asking if Sugiura and Yano are now in Hontai? Loved how Marufuji refused to lean into the shenanigans of ELP and Gedo, and simply did his job, much to the chagrin of KENTA. This match was a simple showcase of talents whose names are synonymous with their companies, but due to the nature of the best-of-five LIJ/KLONGO format, couldn’t be featured on the upper half of the card.

What’s Next?

  • NJPW: Tanahashi and KENTA will meet in a singles match at New Beginning in Osaka on February 11th. The last time they met in singles competition was in the G1 2022 in block competition, where KENTA finally got revenge for Tanahashi putting him on the shelf after their IWGP US Championship match with No DQ rules at Wrestle Kingdom 16 night two. El Phantasmo will face Tama Tonga for the NEVER Openweight Championship on the same show.  
  • NOAH: Marufuji will be in tomorrow’s main event, “The of the Nightmare” at BYE BYE MUTA, teaming with AKIRA and Hakushi against The Great Muta, Sting, and Darby Allin. Sugiura and Kojima will team with Kiyomiya and El Hijo de Dr. Wagner, Jr. against KONGO (KENOH, Nakajima, Soya & Masakatsu Funaki) in the 8-man tag semi-main event.

El Desperado (NJPW) defeated YO-HEY (NOAH) (10:57) – via verbal submission using Numero Dos

They crossed paths last year at the first NJPW x NOAH Wrestle Kingdom (16) in a tag match with Desperado pairing with DOUKI and YO-HEY with Nosawa Rongai. As both are wildly popular and decorated within their companies’ respective Junior divisions, it felt like after the wildly diverse Best of the Super Juniors last year, that YO-HEY could have been a lock for someone from the outside to make the singles tourney that much more interesting. Now that Suzuki-gun’s disbanded and he indirectly lost the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship 4-Way at Wrestle Kingdom on January 4th, El Desperado’s future is rather unclear. However, if this newfound freedom means he can chase his wrestling hopes and dreams with talent from other companies and around the world, I am all here for it. 

While I love the style of junior heavyweight wrestling, the chaotic and constant flux of loyalties in the NOAH Junior’s Division has always kept me from investing in them long-term. However, finally seeing YO-HEY in a singles match with arguably one of the best junior wrestlers in the modern era has definitely made a case for him to be more central on my radar. I think his face turn and joining NOAH’s Seigi-gun (their version of Hontai) has also contributed to that as well. He gave Desperado a good run for his money, but seeing Despy force him not only to give up, but verbally as both arms were tied back in the Numero Dos was brutal.

What’s Next?

  • NJPW: El Desperado will tag with Nosawa Rongai against YO-HEY and Seiki Yoshioka on February 12th in Osaka. Currently, no big plans during New Beginning, unless he and Minoru Suzuki continue their efforts to recruit Ren Narita.
  • NOAH: Before his next match against El Desperado, YO-HEY will tag with KZY (Dragon Gate) and Dante Leon against AMAKUSA, Ultimo Dragon and Ninja Mack on tomorrow’s BYE BYE MUTA card.

NOAH (AMAKUSA, Alejandro & Junta Miyawaki) defeated NJPW (Master Wato, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tiger Mask IV) (9:37) – with AMAKUSA pinning Tiger Mask

My instant reaction to seeing AMAKUSA and Master Wato standing across the ring from one another is that infamous Spiderman Meme (where multiple Spidermen are pointing at one another). The same with Alejandro and Taguchi botched decked out in NOAH Green. While I appreciate the dedication to signature colors and costuming styles, it felt like The Blues and The Greens could have easily swapped partners and it would have made the match a little more interesting. This was a great feature of the juniors in both companies in a six-man format. I was surprised that out of everyone Tiger Mask would be the one to fall to AMAKUSA because I was secretly hoping for Junta Miyawaki to stick it to Taguchi. 

What’s Next?

  • NJPW: The further muddying of the boundaries between CHAOS and Hontai continues as Tiger Mask, Taguchi and Wato spend the New Beginning tour in multi man tag matches with members from both units. 
  • NOAH: AMAKUSA will tag with Ultimo Dragon and Ninja Mack tomorrow against YO-HEY, KZY, and Dante Leon. Alejandro and Junta Miwawaki will tag with Yasutaka Yano on the BYE BYE MUTA card.

NJPW (Kazuchika Okada & Togi Makabe) vs. NOAH (Kaito Kitomiya & Yoshiki Inamura) (6:35) – No Contest 

When Kiyomiya and Okada are mentioned in the same breath, I always think back to June 2020, when Kaito Kiyomiya was on the cover of Weekly Pro-Wrestling Magazine, holding a photo of Okada doing his signature Rainmaker post. At last year’s Yokohama, it would be Kiyomiya left crying after sampling Okada’s handiwork firsthand, but if this builds to the singles match we’ve all been craving for nearly three years, so be it. The only challenge is that if they’re both the companies top champions going into the match, what will the stakes be or will it end in another Okada wins scenario? 

With both the GHC Heavyweight Champion and the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion in this match, I genuinely wondered how they were going to have this match and manage to protect both of the companies’ top champions. The answer came in the form of Kaito Kiyomiya kicking Kazuchika Okada so hard in the face that The Rainmaker got busted open above his eye. After Keiji Muto escorted out a crying Kiyomiya after last year’s main event, I certainly didn’t have the Supernova being the one to fire the first shot in 2023. I love Okada, but I haven’t seen him this out of character since his Balloon Toting, Long-Boys wearing G1 Phase from 2019, and I am so ready for it!

The tag match quickly devolved into a non-stop brawl outside of the ring with Makabe and Inamura being the voices of reason, trying to keep Okada and Kiyomiya apart. I was surprised how long the referee let the fighting outside of the ring continue before throwing out the match in a no-contest. Okada even picked up Kiyomiya and threw him down on the English announcers’ table. In the new New Japanverse, English Commentary is the equivalent of WWE’s Spanish Announcers’ table… bets are always open to see if they finish the show with the broadcast booth intact. 

After the match, everyone thought the situation was diffused until Kiyomiya picked up a mic and demanded that Okada face him one-on-one. When Okada continued walking away, Kiyomiya hit the one button that could set Okada off, the suggestion that the great Okada was afraid to face him in singles competition. This resulted in Okada turning on his heel and heading right back to pick up where they had left off. There is no time and date announced yet as well as no clue as to any repercussions for their behavior in the match. No inclination if the titles would or could even be involved, but we’ll have to see where it goes from here. 

What’s Next?

  • NJPW: Okada will defend the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship against Shingo Takagi at New Beginning in Osaka on February 11th. The winner will have their first defense at Battle in the Valley (San Jose, CA) the following weekend February 18th. 
  • NOAH: Kiyomiya will tag in the semi-main event tomorrow in an 8-man tag alongside Sugiura, Kojima, & El Hijo de Dr. Wagner, Jr. Inamura will tag with Daiki Inaba and Masa Kitamiya tomorrow against Good Looking Guys (the new unit of Jake Lee, Jack Morris & Anthony Greene).  

Best of Five Series 1: Tadasuke (KONGO) defeated BUSHI (LIJ) (11:09) – with 2PAC

This match was fine. BUSHI used his mist, and in return, Tadasuke got the upset win. With the split of who has upcoming title matches in the New Beginning tour and who doesn’t it– was kind of easy to figure out which members of LIJ and KONGO would be the ones to secure the wins or take the losses. The mist spot was fun, but the rest of the match was unfortunately rather forgettable and in an exceptionally hard part of the card. They worked hard, but with the minimal build-up to the program, relying heavily upon KENOH/Naito and Takagi/Nakajima, and the history of Soya/SANADA… this one was very much in the shadow of it all and struggled to get out of the wake of Kiyomiya/Okada moments before. 

What’s Next?

  • NJPW: BUSHI will tag with LIJ on the New Beginning tour. There has been no announcement as to when Titan is returning prior to Fantastica Mania. With Hiromu as the singles champ and with an already set title defense, unless BUSHI pushes his way to the front of the queue, he’ll just be coasting for the time being. 
  • NOAH: Tadasuke isn’t listed for the BYE BYE MUTA show tomorrow. However, it’s possible that he will be seconding the members of KONGO at ringside as they are in multiple matches tomorrow.

Best of Five Series 2: Hiromu Takahashi (LIJ) ©JrHW defeated Hajime Ohara (KONGO) (13:05)with Time Bomb II

As the current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion fresh off his winning at Wk16 and starting his fifth reign with the championship, I didn’t see Hiromu losing this match– not by a long shot and especially after BUSHI just lost to Tadasuke. I don’t particularly care for Ohara, and I would have much rather had seen Hi69 or Shuji Kondo in this spot if it had to be a junior. Since the title wasn’t on the line, I would have loved to have seen Masakatsu Funaki in this spot, as he is my favorite member of KONGO who wasn’t included in the best-of-five pairing. I’ve seen plenty of far more exciting Hiromu matches. This one was simply fine. 

Hiromu opens his backstage promo by talking about HAOH, who used to be a member of KONGO before he mysteriously vanished. However, before he could discuss HAOH further, AMAKUSA appeared and challenged him to a singles match. No time/date announced, but this is a great throwback for Hiromu’s YouTube Channel fans as there is a hidden deep cut involved. 

NOTE: For those who don’t follow NOAH, HAOH is Yuki Sato’s former incarnation in NOAH while he was in KONGO. HAOH lost a Loser Leaves NOAH match to Tadasuke in June 2022. After losing the match, he returned five months later as AMAKUSA to team with former KONGO teammate, Alejandro, after a brief trip to Mexico. Last year, Hiromu held a poll asking fans which (preferably non-NJPW) Juniors they would like to see wrestle on a dream card, and HAOH came in sixth. However, in the reveal of the dream match card for this fictitious show, Hiromu admitted he wanted a singles match against HAOH!! However, the video was released during the time HOAH had disappeared from NOAH and AMAKUSA had yet to appear in NOAH!

What’s Next:

  • NJPW: Takahashi will defend the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship against YOH on the second night of New Beginning in Sapporo (February 5th) in the main event. This will be Hiromu’s first defense in his fifth reign with the Jr. Championship.  
  • NOAH: Ohara will be in the opening match of BYE BYE MUTA, tagging with his KONGO stablemate Hi69 (‘Hiroki’) against Atsushi Kotoge and Seiki Yoshioka.

Best of Five Series 3: Manabu Soya (KONGO) defeated SANADA (LIJ) (13:57) – via pinfall

I liked how this match was a classic wrestling match and even without any championships on the line, their history together was more than enough to make the match compelling. As someone who is unfamiliar with their time prior to their current placements in their current companies, I really wanted to see the uneven in singles competition score between them be tied up. Not that I didn’t want SANADA to win, but I wanted more of a reason for a rematch at a date in the future as well. 

I am sure I sound like a broken record, but I feel like Soya and SANADA are both ones to watch in 2023. Of the five matches in the LIJ/KONGO series, this is the one with the deepest history. I hope they revisit this matchup again in the future now that they are tied 4-4 apiece. This match felt like it wasn’t simply designed for the NJPW/NOAH split, but more for those familiar with their AJPW roots and history as tag partners.

What’s Next?

  • NJPW: SANADA will participate in the New Beginning tour. Beyond that, hopefully, 2023 will be the year he wins a singles title that he gets the chance to actually defend… or a New Japan Cup or G1 win.  
  • NOAH: Soya will compete with KENOH, Nakajima, and Masakatsu Funaki against Kaito Kiyomiya (GHC Champion), El Hijo de Dr. Wagner, Jr. (GHC National Champion), Takashi Sugiura and Satoshi Kojima (GHC Tag Champions) at BYE BYE MUTA. 

Best of Five Series 4: Shingo Takagi (LIJ) ©KOPW defeated Katsuhiko Nakajima (18:28) – Last of the Dragon

I could easily spend all day waxing poetic about Takagi, Nakajima, and this match, especially given how each of them have been standouts in their companies in the last few years. Shingo is one of my favorite members of LIJ and he really put the company on his back in 2022, especially during the summer. Since Nakajima’s turn on Go Shiozaki and his aligning himself with KONGO, he’s constantly snaking his way into hearts around the world with his cat that ate the canary smile and kicks that sound like shotgun blasts. The charisma of the pair of them is off the charts and both dug deep in this match to really showcase to the world why they’re constantly in the main event pictures. They are also prime examples of what unadulterated magic can happen when companies work together to make crossover shows like this a reality. It’s actual fantasy booking at its finest. 

I found myself torn throughout the entire match, hoping both could win, but also not wanting another No Contest like Kiyomiya/Okada. This match featured the Best of Takagi and Nakajima when it came to signature spots within the match. While I love some Dragon-sensei, I was fully behind Nakajima throughout this match. I think it was largely because I believe The Dark Wolf is more than a man who simply (and unintentionally) knocks out his opponents. The more it was discussed in commentary, the more I wished they wouldn’t talk about those blemishes on his record, especially remembering how devastated Nakajima looked after the Endo incident at CyberFight Festival and how history repeated itself with Kinya Okada during the recent N-1 Victory. As a long-time fan of Nakajima, it just made me bummed out because I know he’s so much more than wrestling spots gone awry. 

With his IWGP World Heavyweight challenge against Okada in a few weeks, I knew Nakajima wasn’t winning this match, but at least he and Takagi had an absolute showcase. 

What’s Next

  • NJPW: Takagi will face The Great O’Khan tomorrow in Nagoya in the main event of New Beginning in his first KOPW 2023 defense. He’ll also challenge Kazuchika Okada on February 11th for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. 
  • NOAH: Nakajima will compete with KENOH, Soya, and Masakatsu Funaki against Kaito Kiyomiya (GHC Champion), El Hijo de Dr. Wagner, Jr. (GHC National Champion), Takashi Sugiura and Satoshi Kojima (GHC Tag Champions) at BYE BYE MUTA.

Best of Five Series 5: Tetsuya Naito (LIJ) defeated KENOH (KONGO) (26:57) – Destino

After his devastating loss alongside KONGO at Wrestle Kingdom 16 in Yokohama Arena, many wondered if it was a one-off or the start of a forever rivalry between arguably two of the most popular factions in the entire Japanese wrestling scene. At WK17, KONGO proposed the singles series for LIJ after their loss to Keiji Muto, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Shota Umino. Instead of a massive 10-man tag like last January, they demanded the upper half of the showcard, giving fans what they wanted: another WK show with more singles matches. The groups promoted the event in a short window with the emergency press conference and LIJ showing up at one of the NOAH shows prior to the WK17 in Yokohama. KENOH also did his own homework in a video series on his YouTube Channel in preparation for this match.

In the leader versus leader main event and the series tied two-two, the pressure was on both Naito and KENOH to not only follow the hot semi-main featuring Takagi and Nakajima but present the audience with a match-up worthy of closing a second night of Wrestle Kingdom. The Naito fans were in full force cheering their hearts out for their favorite and trying to boo KENOH out of the building. Much like Nakajima, I found myself cheering for KONGO despite being an LIJ and Naito fan, and I think it was largely in part to the amount of effort KENOH put into promoting the match on short notice in the last few weeks since his loss to Kiyomiya at NOAH THE NEW YEAR in an attempt to get the GHC Championship back. 

I found this pairing to be very much like a cat and dog tousling in the backyard. Naito is very much a cat personality, wanting to do everything at his pace and when he feels like it, while KENOH is the impatient, scrappy dog, who just wants to get down to business and get it over with. The opposing dogmas of Tranquilo and Zero Chill made for an entertaining match that nearly went to the entire thirty-minute time limit. Naito may have dictated the pacing for a large part of the match, KENOH had the uncanny ability to throw him off pace and drag him kicking and screaming into frenzied sprints throughout the match. 

Much like last year’s NJPW vs. NOAH, despite all the other wins on the card I didn’t expect anyone from NOAH to win and close the show. KENOH looked far from weak in defeat, and honestly made a stellar case for entry into the G1. I doubt NOAH could let go of him or Nakajima for a G1 program, but the heart wants what the heart wants. KENOH fell to Naito, meaning that KONGO fell to LIJ for a second time in just over a calendar year. What surprised me after the match was all the various possibilities for the future paths of LIJ, KONGO, Naito, and KENOH.  

After Naito closed the show, Keiji Muto interrupted his departure from the arena, informing him that he’s the final opponent Muta wants when he retires next month. While he hasn’t completely accepted Keiji Muto’s call out to be his opponent in his retirement match next month, Naito confirmed he’ll clear his schedule. At least he’ll see a Tokyo Dome main event in 2023 albeit with historical stakes. It may not have been the WK main event in the Tokyo Dome spot he imagined, but at least Tetsuya Naito will main event at the Dome in 2023. 

What’s Next

  • NJPW: Naito will face Shota Umino at New Beginning in Sapporo (night one) on February 4th. His dance card for February 21st is likely taken with a Tokyo Dome main event at Keiji Muto’s retirement show. 
  • NOAH: KENOH will tag with Nakajima, Soya and Masakatsu Funaki against Kaito Kiyomiya (GHC Champion), El Hijo de Dr. Wagner, Jr. (GHC National Champion), Takashi Sugiura and Satoshi Kojima (GHC Tag Champions) at BYE BYE MUTA. Jinsei Shinzaki, his mentor, will take up his Hakushi alter ego in the show’s main event. While he isn’t all that surprised that Muta singled out Naito for his retirement match, he recently discussed Muta and Muto on his own YouTube channel.

In his post-match live stream, KENOH apologized to those who cheered for him during his match with Naito as well as those who supported KONGO against LIJ. He candidly admits his frustration that although many complimented their match, in the end he wasn’t able to get a winning result. KENOH wasn’t entirely sure if Naito’s offer for a fist bump after the match was genuine or him kicking him while he was down, and since he was crushed that he lost, he didn’t want to take any risk to return the fist bump. 

“Did it mean that he wants a rematch in the future? Was he thanking me for our match? If it meant an open invitation to fight KONGO again in the future, we’ll fight any time and any place… or possibly… in the future… if LIJ wants to team up with KONGO… I’d be open to that conversation as well, but it will have to come from him (i.e. Tetsuya Naito would need to ask KENOH, not the other way around). He’d have to be the one to offer the invitation.” – KENOH (via YouTube live stream)

Final Thoughts & What’s Next in 2023

In closing, Wrestle Kingdom 17 in Yokohama Arena was a great entryway for those curious about getting into either or both NJPW and NOAH. As this is their second meeting at Yokohama Arena, I hope this continues to be the venue for future co-branded shows between the companies in the future… unless Wrestle Dynasty ever happens at Madison Square Garden. The only thing I would change is having a unique program name that isn’t Wrestle Kingdom. While the show is largely produced by NJPW, I think having a separate naming could make it feel that much more special, like Forbidden Door or Historic X-Over, instead of being lumped together into their first show of the new year that was two and a half weeks ago.  

NOAH’s Stewart Fulton indicated that their English Commentary team will also do a voice-over production for the release on Wrestle Universe once the Abema PPV embargo is over. Unlike the Japanese broadcast panel for Abema, which saw a mixture of NOAH and NJPW talent together, I think the understanding is that the international English broadcast was limited since it was exclusive to NJPW World. I am curious to hear their take as well as that of the combined Japanese broadcast panel with its rotating guest commentators.

Tomorrow, NOAH bids adieu to The Great Muta. Fans outside of Japan can watch BYE BYE: The Great Muta Final in English on Wrestle Universe and on FITE TV. Since the program is presented by Abema, it is possible that like Wrestle Kingdom 17 in Yokohama, Abema will hold the exclusive Japanese broadcast rights first before moving it to WU at a later date. 

Tomorrow in Nagoya, NJPW officially kicks off the New Beginning Series, which will have multiple stops including back-to-back shows in Sapporo and concluding in Osaka. Their next big international show will be Battle in the Valley on February 18th in San Jose, California on PPV (NJPW World JP live commentary & FITE TV for international). Check NJPW World for their complete live broadcast and VOD schedule and further details.

About Karen Peterson 96 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.