Written by Eli Conroy-de Voss.
Happy new year, everyone! And what a first week it’s been. There has been no shortage of big shows, big news, big title changes and big developments in Japan this week. There’s so much to get into, so let’s just jump into things with the biggest event of the year.
New Japan Pro Wrestling:
Wrestle Kingdom has come and gone, with a lot of new developments to unpack. Starting from the bottom of the card and working our way up: Catch 22 regained the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag titles off of the Bullet Club Wardogs, even after Moloney and Connors bought themselves personalised white belts literally the day before. NJPW’s new President is now also a double champion after Hiroshi Tanahashi ended Zack Sabre Jr’s year long reign as NJPW World Television Champion. Tanahashi is now the second man to hold that belt while simultaneously reigning as NEVER Openweight Six-Man Champion with Tomohiro Ishii and Kazuchika Okada. Speaking of the NEVER belts, Tama Tonga has reclaimed the NEVER Openweight Championship from Shingo Takagi. He then announced he would be leaving NJPW soon to relocate back to America as he wanted to spend more time with his family. Hikuleo and El Phantasmo defeated the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, Bishamon, to become double tag champs, as they also hold the NJPW STRONG Tag Team titles. El Desperado defeated long-time rival, Hiromu Takahashi, to secure the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship, beginning his third reign with the belt. David Finlay is now your inaugural IWGP Global Heavyweight Champion, defeating both Will Ospreay and Jon Moxley to become the new belt’s first holder. Interestingly, Nic Nemeth, the former Dolph Ziggler, made a surprise appearance to provide English commentary over this match. After the show, a brawl broke out between Nemeth and Finlay, implying a match might be on the way. In the semi-main event, Kazuchika Okada and Bryan Danielson faced off again in a match that has the wrestling world in a storm. And finally, we have a new IWGP World Heavyweight Champion. Tetsuya Naito defeated former stablemate SANADA to secure his first reign with the new top title and celebrated by leading the Tokyo Dome in an emphatic role call. Quite the eventful show. Even this evening, as I write this, there are more developments taking place. At New Years Dash, Taiji Ishimori became the new KOPW Champion and Matt Riddle made an appearance via video to challenge for Tanahashi’s newly won TV title. A lot of announcements were made for upcoming shows as well as some fun teases, such as Zack calling out Danielson for another match. It’s been a very eventful week.
Pro Wrestling NOAH:
Pro Wrestling NOAH also had a solid show to kick the year off, with a few big takeaways to come from it. The only titles to change hand were the GHC Jr Tag belts after GLG regained them in a three way tag match, while both Kenoh and DAGA retained their respective belts in competitive bouts. The Great Sakuya made her appearance finally after a lot of stellar vignettes, losing via DQ after using a weapon on the referee. It seems the woman behind the face paint is none other than former AAAW Tag Team Champion, Riko Kawahata. Sadly, there has been a dark cloud which looms over this event. The main event has been heavily criticised by fans and critics alike, after current AEW star, Kota Ibushi, proceeded to wrestle injured. On top of lingering injuries Ibushi still seems to be recovering from, it also appears he injured both ankles very early on, leading to a long and slow match that left very few satisfied. Hopefully he heals up and comes back stronger than ever.
All Japan Pro Wrestling:
All Japan has also had a very eventful week, with multiple big shows to discuss. Their biggest would have to be Mania X, which not only saw the debut of Davey Boy Smith Jr and NXT’s Charlie Dempsey, but saw a new champion in the form of Dan Tamura. The Jr Battle of Glory winner defeated El Lindaman to become the new AJPW World Jr Heavyweight Champion. And in the main event, Katsuhiko Nakajima successfully defended his Triple Crown title against Kento Miyahara, embracing a new, Antonio Inoki-inspired appearance. He would go on to successfully defend the belt again against Dempsey a few days later, while Black Menso-Re wkuld defeat Minoru Tanaka to become new GAORA TV Champion.
Speaking of Minoru Tanaka, GLEAT closed the year with one of their annual Tokyo Dome City Hall shows, with a big lineup of matches. Fujita Hayato retained the LIDET UWF belt over Tanaka, while the Saito Brothers remain G-INFINITY Tag Champions. In the main event, however, we did see a new champion crowned. Hayato Tamura ended the year by defeating T-Hawk to become G-Rex Champion, the fourth in company history.
After failing in the finals last year, Yukio Naya has defeated Tetsuya Endo to win the D-Oh Grand Prix 2023. He will face the man he lost to last year, Yuki Ueno, for his KO-D Openweight Championship on January 28th at DDT Sweet Dreams. Shunma Katsumata has made a declaration as well, challenging Kazuki Hirata for the DDT Extreme Championship, the same belt he was forced to vacate due to injury last year. That match will also go down at Sweet Dreams, as well as the KO-D Tag Team match between Romance Dawn and Damnation T.A. And finally, while he mightn’t have won the D-Oh, Tetsuya Endo has walked away the winner of DDT and BJW’s annual Shuffle Six-Man Tag Team Tournament winner, alongside partners Fuminori Abe and Daisuke Sekimoto.
Big Japan Pro Wrestling:
And speaking of Big Japan, what a crazy week they’ve had. Their last show of 2023, ended with three big title changes. Ender Kara defeated Kaji Tomato to become new BJW Jr Heavyweight Champion, while Masashi Takeda and Takumi Tsukamoto surprisingly picked up the tag belts off of Astronauts, dashing their hopes of setting new company records. And finally in the main event, Madman Pondo defeated Yuki Ishikawa to become new BJW Deathmatch Champion, only the fourth foreigner in history to do so. Oddly, he wouldn’t hold it for very long, as on the 4th of January, he would drop it right back to Ishikawa, leaving a reign of only 5 days.
World Wonder Ring Stardom:
After a strong end to the year, Stardom has began 2024 with some interesting developments. God’s Eye defeated Donna Del Mondo in the finals of the Triangle Derby this week to become new Artist of Stardom Champions. In the aftermath, Giulia asked her faction mates to join her in-ring before announcing the group would be disbanding. She took a moment to thank every member, even those who weren’t a part of the unit anymore, before bidding the crowd one final adieu. A day later, Mayu Iwatani would successfully defend her IWGP Women’s Championship in the main event of Stardom Gate 2024.
Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling:
At Tokyo Joshi Pro ‘24, two new Champions were crowned. Yuki Arai defeated Max the I played to become new International Princess Champion, while Yuki Aimo and Roy Mizunami picked up the vacant Princess Tag Team Titles.