Written by Eli Conroy-de Voss.
A quiet week this one. A few title changes and big announcements, but there haven’t been a lot of shows to report on. Just one of those calmer weeks, I suppose.
New Japan Pro Wrestling:
The New Beginning tour has been quite eventful for NJPW this year. We’ve seen multiple new champions and big announcements made. Hikuleo and El Phantasmo successfully defended their STRONG Tag titles against Chase Owens and KENTA, but a rematch is set for February 11 with the IWGP belts on the line instead. Great O’Khan defeated Taiji Ishimori in a “10 Minutes Ishimori Ring Fit Match” for the KOPW Provisional Championship, this being his first singles belt in the company. El Desperado successfully defended the IWGP Jr Heavyweight title against former tag partner, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, while Kanemaru’s stablemate EVIL defeated Tama Tonga to once again became NEVER Openweight Champion. This was Tama’s last contracted match with New Japan. Where he goes from here is still to be seen. On the note of departures, Kazuchika Okada also had his last contracted match with NJPW. He, Tanahashi and Ishii defeated TMDK to retain their NEVER Openweight Six-Man belts before immediately vacating them as Okada said some of his last goodbyes to the company. The Rainmaker is still scheduled for a few more appearances with the company before finally parting ways, but regardless it was a very emotional night for everyone involved. Master Wato was expected to face SHO in a singles match earlier this week, but suffered an injury that has put him on the sidelines for roughly of six months. He came to the ring to announce this, only to be blindsided with a wrench by SHO, who was thusly chased off by El Desperado. Desperado and SHO will face off for the Jr Heavyweight Championship on the 23rd while Shota Umino finally gets his shot at EVIL and his NEVER Openweight title.
Rising independent star, Bryan Keith, made his Japanese debut this week, facing MAO for his DDT Universal title in an unsuccessful effort. While he lost the match, he did win over the crowd in the process. Fingers crossed to see him make a return sometime down the line. After the match, Hikaru Machida made his challenge for the belt which is now set for February 25th. In other news, Damnation T.A’s KANON and Daisuke Sasaki defeated Romance Dawn to become new KO-D Tag Team Champions. The pair immediately nominated Yuki Inio and Tetsuya Wndo as their next opponents. That match will go down on February 7th.
Big Japan Pro Wrestling:
After Tatsuhiro Yoshino was forced to pull out of his upcoming BJW Jr Heavyweight title match on the 27th, Ender Kara has announced two new opponents for that date: the former champion, Kota Sekifuda, and Australia’s own Zeke Andino. This is Andino’s first title match for the company, and hopefully it won’t be his last. In other news, Kazumi Kikuta scored a direct pinfall over Strong Heavyweight Champion, Yuya Aoki, and his challenge for the belt has been accepted. The pair will face off for the belt on Fabruary 18th. BJW will also see a number of their talent making international voyages soon. Ryuji Ito and Abdullah Kobayashi will be making returns to GCW while Kobayashi competes in ICW’s Gods of Death Tournament over in the UK. Recent BJW Tag Team Champions, Astronauts, will also get a chance to replace their gold, as they face Violence is Forever for the GCW Tag Team Championships.
World Wonder Ring Stardom:
Stardom saw one departure and one return this week. As Megan Bayne had her last match with the company for the time being, Xena made her surprise return. She came to the ring to join Maika, Mina Shirakawa, Waka Tsukiyama and HANAKO as they unified in the birth of a brand new faction. The group has yet to decide on a name and both Shirakawa and Maika are unclear who exactly the leader is, but the idea of a new faction is very exciting after the collapse of Donna Del Mondo. In one final bit of news, the company also announced its award winners for 2023. The MVP award went to Tam Nakano, Best Skill to MIRAI, Fighting Spirit to Suzu Suzuki, Best Unit to Queen’s Quest, Best Tag Team to Saori Anou and Natsupoi, Special Achievement to Mayu Iwatani, Best Bout to Giulia vs Megan Bayne and finally the fans voted for Maika to receive the SHINING Award. Congratulations everyone.