As New Japan Pro Wrestling’s annual chaser to Wrestle Kingdom (check our match recommendations here), New Year Dash!! (for full results check here) is usually full of surprises.
This year, there was really only one, and it wasn’t that much of a surprise, but we’re still gonna talk about it.
Usually New Year Dash!! uses the majority of talent that were on Wrestle Kingdom the night before, but this year when the card was announced at the top of the show, a number of men were notable by their absence. Kota Ibushi, Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes, the Young Bucks of Matt and Nick Jackson, Marty Scurll, and Hangman Page. Or as you might know them...
Sure, Ibushi likely would have taken the night off no matter the outside circumstances after the reported concussion he suffered wrestling Will Ospreay in Wrestle Kingdom 13’s opening match, but the others were all hale and hearty... and also on the losing end of every match they were in on the big show.
So while All Elite Wrestling may have aspirations of working with New Japan, at least for this immediate moment in time, that doesn’t seem to be on the table.
Questions of Kenny Omega’s future continue to loom largest of all with him gone the night after the biggest show of the year following two years of being one of NJPW’s driving forces. Signing with WWE, AEW, a big return to New Japan in a few months, all seem possible.
But what of the men left in New Japan?
Well, following the Bullet Club team of Taiji Ishimori, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa successfully defending their NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship against the somewhat ragtag team of Ryusuke Taguchi, Togi Makabe, and Toru Yano, Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi joined the Biz Cliz beatdown of the babyface squad.
A brief tense moment ensued as they waited, Too Sweets in the air while Tama Tonga feigned like he didn’t want them here, but in the end, they embraced. A final treaty to end the Bullet Club civil war once and for all.
And, in the main event, YOSHI-HASHI returned after missing most of the end of 2018 due to injury, teaming with the dream team of Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada against the Bullet Club team of Bad Luck Fale, Gedo, and “Switchblade” Jay White. Poor Tacos would prove to be the weak link and fell to Blade Runner, giving White his second big win of 2019.
Post-match, Switchblade said he made light work of Okada and calls Tanahashi out for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, declaring this his era and that title his belt before calling the 1/100 Ace an old man who can barely walk, already on his death bed. The taunt proved enough for Hiroshi to enter the ring, which proved a mistake when Gedo and Fale attacked.
The beatdown continued, the Rainmaker made the save but fell to Bad Luck’s trademark Grenade, and Jay stood tall with the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in hand, telling everyone to breathe with the Switchblade.
It’s not the most exciting closing angle in New Year Dash!! history, and I have my concerns (chiefly due to Switchblade’s first match against Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom 12 being an absolute mess, although their G1 Climax rematch later in the year was much better), but given the absence of the Elite and the pieces left on the board, I’m interested in seeing how this plays out.
There you have it, folks
The Elite is gone, Bullet Club is fine, and “Switchblade” Jay White seems to be gunning right for the top. How do you feel about New Japan’s direction for 2019, Cagesiders?