The retirement ceremony of Jushin Thunder Liger takes place tonight in Ota Ward Gymnasium at New Years Dash.
Liger wrestled his final match yesterday at Wrestle Kingdom 14, teaming with Naoki Sano in a losing effort against Hiromu Takahashi and Ryu Lee. He also wrestled on January 4, teaming with The Great Sasuke, Tiger Mask and Tatsumi Fujinami, losing to the team of Naoki Sano, Shinjiro Otani, Tatsuhito Takaiwa and Rysuke Taguchi.
The New Years Dash card normally takes place the day after Wrestle Kingdom. It is a mystery card, with matches not being announced until bell time. The cards usually consist of eight and six man tag team matches.
Matches that take place tonight will likely set the stage for The New Beginning, which takes place next month. Some confrontations that took place last night included Minoru Suzuki laying out Jon Moxley and KENTA assaulting Tetsuya Naito after Naito became the first person to win both the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental titles.
Join us for live coverage starting at 4:30 a.m. EST.
JUSHIN THUNDER LIGER RETIREMENT CEREMONY
This was one of the best things you will ever see in professional wrestling.
The show opened with a great video package highlighting some of Liger's milestones. This was an amazing video.
Liger entered, followed by the non-LIJ/Suzuki-gun/Bullet Club/CHAOS roster members. Tanahashi presented Liger a bouquet of flowers. They posed for photos with Liger, then left Liger in the ring.
CHAOS then entered to Okada's music. Okada presented Liger with flowers, then the CHAOS squad posed for photos. Okada pulled out his phone for a group selfie. CHAOS then surrounded the ring with the rest of the roster.
The NJPW chairman, Naoki Sugabayashi entered and presented flowers. NJPW President Harold Meij presented flowers.
Chikage, Liger's wife, then entered and presented flowers, as did his son, Takamitsu. This was amazing. We got a shot of Tanahashi in tears.
A video message from Antonio Inoki played. He wished Liger good health and said he raised a glass to Liger tonight, even though Inoki doesn't drink any more.
Liger said he debuted as Liger in Tokyo Dome, and yesterday had his last match there. He thanked Hiromu Takahashi and said he was glad to be retired at his hand.
He thanked the fans for supporting him for 31 years. He said Liger the wrestler is no more, but NJPW will continue to thrive thanks to everyone you see around the ring.
He said his mother is at an advanced age and in poor health, but she was at the Dome and made it here tonight. He thanked her for raising him and being there.
He thanked his wife and son. He said he's made them lonely living this life, but he's coming home, so they'll have to put up with him. He thanked the fans.
We got a ten bell salute. Liger posed in the ring as his music played. The roster climbed back into the ring and tossed Liger in the air. Liger shook hands with everyone in the ring.
Tanahashi asked the crowd to sing Liger's entrance song. The crowd sang and clapped along. Tana held a mic and sang with Liger.
Liger left the ring, then walked around all four sides, waving to the crowd. He made his way to the stage, bowed, then made his exit.
KARL FREDERICKS, ALEX COUGHLIN & CLARK CONNORS DEFEATED TOA HENARE, YOTA TSUJI & YUYA UEMURA
Uemura and Connors started off. Uemura used a hammerlock on the mat. Connors forced a rope break. Connors used a chinlock with a grapevine on the legs.
Coughlin and Tsuji got tags. Tsuji hit a tackle. Coughlin hit a chop as these two looked to up the intensity. Tsuji hit some right hands. Coughlin hit a big chop, then used a gutwrench throw for a near fall.
Connors tagged in. Connors and Coughlin cleared the opposing apron. Fredericks tagged in and got a two count off a double tackle. The L.A. Dojo team isolated Tsuji in their half of the ring, working him over.
Tsuji hit a slam to Coughlin, then tagged Henare. Henare hit tackles to Coughlin and an interfering Fredericks. Henare hit a Samoan drop on Coughlin for a two count. Coughlin ducked under a lariat. Fredericks and Connors entered for a triple team. Connors hit a spear, allowing Coughlin to make a cover. Tsuji jumped in to break up the pin.
Henare hit a vertical suplex, then tagged Uemura. Fredericks tagged in as well. They traded chops and strikes. Uemura tried a double underhook suplex, but Fredericks blocked and hit a backbreaker. Uemura answered with a dropkick off the ropes, then another in the corner. Uemura hit a double underhook suplex for a near fall.
The match broke down. The other four competitors jumped in, then bailed to the floor, brawling. Uemura used a full Boston crab on Fredericks. Coughlin jumped in to break it up. The ring cleared again.
Uemura hit a series of uppercut forearms. Fredericks responded with a dropkick. He tried a spinebuster. Uemura turned it into a cradle for a two count. Fredericks then hit the spinebuster and an elbow drop.
Fredericks used a single-leg crab. Uemura fought it for a long time, then tapped out. A fun opener. Tsuji, Coughlin and Connors brawled to the back.
EL DESPERADO & YOSHINOBU KANEMARU DEFEATED SHO & YOH, HIROMU TAKAHASHI & BUSHI, EL PHANTASMO & TAIJI ISHIMORI
Only two wrestlers were legal at a time, but anyone could tag in anyone. The rules made it so that there was a ton of action, but this was not a memorable match.
ELP and Ishimori attacked SHO and YOH before the openiing bell. SHO and YOH hit tandem dropkicks. ELP and Ishimori rolled to the floor. SHO and YOH teased stereo dives, but BUSHI and Hiromu cut them off.
SHO and YOH double up on Hiromu. Ishimori jumped in with a springboard knee, landing awkwardly. ELP tagged in to continue working over Hiromu. Bullet Club tied Hiromu to the tree of woe, then stood on his crotch.
Kanemaru blind tagged himself in. He hit a leg slice over the barricade on Hiromu, then a DDT on the floor. Suzuki-gun and Bullet Club teamed to go 4-on-1 on Hiromu. SHO and YOH cleared the ring and SHO continued working over Hiromu. Hiromu came back with a pop-up powerbomb.
BUSHI entered and cleaned house. Desperado and Ishimori blind tagged in. Ishimori hit Despy with a handspring kick. SHO tagged himself in and hit Despy with back elbows. Kanemaru cut him off. SHO hit a spear to Desperado.
SHO and YOU double-teamed Desperado. They hit stereo knees. The match broke down as everyone jumped in for a big move. YOH hit a dive. SHO and Desperado were left legal. They traded strikes. SHO hit a lariat, then hit a lungblower for a near fall.
SHO got caught with a right hand as he set up for Shock Arrow. Desperado set up for Pinche Loco. BUSHI jumped in and spit black mist. Desperado ducked, SHO got hit with the mist, and Desperado pinned SHO with a schoolboy.
Desperado and Kanemaru likely made themselves number one contenders for the junior heavyweight tag titles by pinning one of the champs.
KOTA IBUSHI, HIROSHI TANAHASHI, JUICE ROBINSON & DAVID FINLAY DEFEATED TAMA TONGA, TANGA LOA, BAD LUCK FALE & CHASE OWENS
Owens and Ibushi started out. Ibushi hit a dropkick. Tana entered and hit a second rope crossbody. Tonga provided a distraction from the apron and the match broke down. Fale and Jado worked on Tana on the floor. Tonga and Loa brawled with Ibushi in the aisle.
The beatdown on Tanahashi continued in the ring. Loa tried a brainbuster. Tana reversed into Twist and Shout, then tagged Juice. Juice hit Loa with a cannonball, then a Left Hand of God. He went for Pulp Friction. Tonga jumped in and hit a Tongan twist.
Finlay jumped in and hit back elbows to Tonga and Loa. Owens hit a dropkick through the ropes onto Ibushi. Juice and Finlay hit stereo suplexes on Tonga and Loa. Fale ran in and knocked them down with a double tackle.
Owens tagged in. Juice hit him with a Juice Box, then tagged Ibushi. Ibushi hit a mid kick to Owens, then a double backflip kick on Fale and Owens. Jado used a kendo stick on Ibushi Owens hit Jewel Heist for a near fall as Finlay saved.
Owens hit a shining wizard for a two count on Ibushi as the other six men brawled on the floor. Owens hit a jumping knee strike. He went for a package piledriver. Ibushi backdropped out, rolled through, then hit a Bomaye.
Ibushi hit a mid kick. Tana jumped in for a slingblade on Owens as well. Ibushi then hit Kamigoye on Owens for the pin.
After the match, Tanahashi and Ibushi pointed at Juice and Finlay's IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team titles. That makes as much sense as anything to keep Ibushi and Tanahashi busy while the top title picture is crowded with Okada, White and perhaps SANADA after tonight.
EVIL & SHINGO TAKAGI DEFEATED TOMOHIRO ISHII & HIROOKI GOTO
I shouldn't be surprised given that Shingo and Ishii are two of the very best wrestlers on God's green earth, but I was caught off guard by how great this match was.
Ishii and EVIL began with a series of hard strikes. Goto and Shingo tagged in and the heavy hitting continued. Goto hit a brainbuster, then used a chinlock. They traded lariats. On the floor, meanwhile, EVIL used a chair on Ishii.
Shingo and Goto then brawled to the floor. Shingo posted Goto, then sent him into the railing. EVIL posted Ishii. Shingo hit a slingshot knee drop. EVIL tagged in for a bronco buster. Shingo tagged back in for a brainbuster on Goto for a two count.
EVIL tagged in. Goto used a misdirection lariat, then tagged Ishii. Ishii hit a series of forearms and chops in the corner. Ishii got whipped into the buckle, then hit a tackle out of the corner. EVIL blocked a back suplex and hit a ref-assisted mid kick, then a draping stomp to the chest.
EVIL used a fisherman buster for a near fall. EVIL hit a misdirection lariat out of the corner. Goto jumped in and Shingo cut him off with a lariat. Goto and Shingo fought to the floor.
EVIL used a scorpion deathlock on Ishii. Goto jumped back in and broke the hold before hitting a lariat, dropping EVIL. Goto used a sleeper on Shingo. Shingo broke it with a jawbreaker, sending Goto rolling to the floor.
Shingo and EVIL doubled up on Ishii. EVIL hit Darkness Falls for a near fall. Ishii blocked Everything is EVIL and hit an enziguri. Both tagged out. Shingo and Goto traded lariats, neither man budging. Goto tried a GTR. Shingo blocked, then hit a sliding lariat.
Goto hit a wheel kick in the corner, then hit a suplex for a near fall as EVIL saved. Ishii hit a back suplex to EVIL. Goto hit Shingo with an ushigoroshi. Ishii hit a sliding lariat. Ishii assisted Goto on an elevated GTR for a near fall. Everyone hit a big lariat. EVIL hit Goto. Ishii hit EVIL. Shingo hit Ishii. Goto hit Shingo. This was awesome.
Goto and Shingo traded shots. Goto hit a hard slap to the face. They traded headbutts. Shingo caught a mid kick. He draped Goto in the ropes and hit a draping GTR. Shingo then hit Last of the Dragon and pinned Goto.
This was an awesome match. The commentators pointed out that Shingo had just pinned the NEVER Openweight champ. EVIL and Ishii also had a staredown after the match.
Shingo cut a promo after the match. He said Goto was a tough bastard, but he beat him. He said they're 1-1 in singles matches, so how about a rubber match. He put over Naito's double title win and said he wants to taste a championship as well. He challenged Goto to defend the NEVER title against him.
KAZUCHIKA OKADA, WILL OSPREAY, YOSHI-HASHI & ROBBIE EAGLES DEFEATED MINORU SUZUKI, TAICHI, LANCE ARCHER & ZACK SABRE JR. BY DQ
There were a couple of significant angles at the finish and after the match. Taichi and Okada looks to be a program going forward and the next angle in the Suzuki and Jon Moxley feud took place. The match itself wasn't much, and it dragged.
Ospreay and Sabre began with some mat work. They then traded holds on the mat. Ospreay used a heel hook. Sabre slid out and used a kravate. Ospreay feigned a magistral cradle attempt, then hit a flying headscissors. Eagles tagged in and hit a tandem kick with Ospreay.
Eagles hit Sabre with mid kicks. He hit the ropes, but Suzuki cut him off and applied an armbar over the top rope. Everyone brawled all over the building. Suzuki piled chairs and pieces of the fence on Eagles. Taichi posted Okada.
Suzuki-gun continued working over Eagles in the ring. Archer allowed Eagles three free strikes, then dropped him with a forearm. Archer hit a pounce. The beatdown went on forever. Suzuki used a heel hook and a kneebar. Eagles finally forced a rope break.
Eagles hit a wheel kick to Suzuki. YH and Archer tagged in. YH hit a headhunter. Taichi jumped in but ate a hurricanrana. YH and Archer exchanged lariats. Archer tagged Taichi. YH tagged Okada. Okada's neck was taped up. Taichi hit a back suplex.
Taichi hit a buzzsaw kick on Okada for a two count. Taichi took his pants off. Everyone jumped in. Archer hit a black hole slam on YH. Okada hit a dropkick to Archer.
Taichi then pulled out the iron glove handed down to him from Iizuka. Taichi hit Okada with the glove for the DQ.
Taichi then cleared the ring with his microphone stand. Sabre and Ospreay fought in the aisle. Sabre locked a rear naked choke on Ospreay.
Taichi teased a piledriver to Okada. He was interrupted by Jon Moxley's music. Moxley entered through the crowd and chased Taichi from the ring. Okada rolled to the floor and Suzuki jumped in to face off with Moxley.
Moxley and Suzuki traded slaps. Moxley hit Death Rider on Suzuki, then posed with over Suzuki with the IWGP United States Championship. After Moxley left, Suzuki laid on his back in the ring, laughing.
Suzuki struggled to the back, still laughing.
TETSUYA NAITO & SANADA DEFEATED KENTA & JAY WHITE
Naito went after KENTA before the opening bell. In the ring, SANADA hit a dropkick to White. He teased a springboard dropkick, but Gedo grabbed his ankle. All four brawled on the floor. KENTA sent Naito over the barricade, then hit a DDT on the floor.
Back in the ring, White hit a neckbreaker on SANADA for a two count. KENTA tagged in and milked the crowd for boos. KENTA rolled back outside and sent Naito into the barricade again.
White tagged in and used a chinlock, then hit a back elbow for a near fall. KENTA tagged in and danced to the anti-KENTA chants from the crowd. SANADA hit a dropkick off the second rope, then tagged Naito.
Naito hit KENTA with strikes, then a neckbreaker over the knee, then a low dropkick. White jumped in and got hit with a hip toss and a dropkick. Naito hit a draping neckbreaker, then a standard neckbreaker.
KENTA came back with a dropkick. White tagged in and targeted Naito's legs. Naito hit a hurricanrana, then tagged SANADA. SANADA hit both KENTA and White with dropkicks. SANADA then hit planchas to both men.
White came back with a snap Saito suplex and a Blade Buster. White tried a uranage, but Naito saved. KENTA jumped in and went after Naito. SANADA used Skull End on White. Gedo jumped in and SANADA crotched him on the middle rope.
SANADA used a spinning Skull End on White. He went for a moonsault but landed on his feet as White rolled out of the way. They traded standing switches. White hit a sleeper suplex. White tried a Blade Runner, but SANADA reversed into a clutch for the pin.
After the bell, White hit SANADA with a low blow. KENTA went after Naito on the floor. KENTA threw Naito inside.
Gedo slid chairs into the ring. KENTA and White used the chairs on Naito and SANADA.
White cut a promo. He said SANADA has been believing in himself too much lately, and like everyone else, he's not better than Jay.
KENTA grabbed the mic and insulted the crowd. He mocked Naito. He said he had a lot of fun at the Tokyo Dome killing Naito's applause. He promised to take both of Naito's titles away from him. SANADA's music started playing, but KENTA demanded that his music be played, and it was. Naito and SANADA were helped to the back to close the show, KENTA's music playing.
So no big SANADA turn, but a clear top challenger established for Naito, and a White/SANADA program were set up here.