One of the big stories here in the States about New Japan’s Battle Autumn event in Osaka was who wouldn’t be there. Karl Anderson’s new WWE contract means he’ll be in Saudi Arabia for Crown Jewel today (Nov. 5), and all involved appear to be working an angle to elevate the importance of his next defense of NJPW’s NEVER Openweight championship.
That may pay off at Wrestle Kingdom 17. That show is the main reason today’s was worth watching, as it’s one of New Japan’s last events (but not the last) en route to the Tokyo Dome on Jan. 4, 2023.
Before he even showed up on Raw, Anderson was announced as defending his title against Hikuleo. Yujiro Takahashi was Machine Gun’s replacement, and he of course brought one of his House of Torture (a Bullet Club offshoot that relies even more on heel shenanigans than the Biz Cliz) teammates with him. But Hikuleo shook off SHO’s blindside attack and chokeslammed Takahashi to win in under a minute. The big man then called out the champ.
The semi-finals of the IWGP World Television Tournament took place in Osaka. Ren Narita — a Young Lion who recently returned from an excursion in the United States and seems poised for big things — pinned SANADA in one, and Zack Sabre, Jr. pinned EVIL in the other. ZSJ vs. Narita for the new belt will take place at Wrestle Kingdom.
After some tags featuring guys who will clash in the Tokyo Dome early next year, Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler made their long awaited debut in Japan.
FTR successfully defended their titles against United Empire’s Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb, the former champs who lost the belts without being pinned or submitted in Forbidden Door’s Triple Threat. They gave the Top Guys a hell of a fight, but lost when O-Khan was left alone for a ride on the Big Rig.
At the post-show press conference, Aussie Open (who FTR beat in the UK last month) stepped to Dax & Cash. Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher announced their intention to win World Tag League and challenge for the IWGP World Heavyweight Tag titles at Wrestle Kingdom.
That left the IWGP United States championship main event, and Will Ospreay and Tetsuya Naito delivered a match worthy of the spot. Ospreay survived multiple Destinos (the Los Ingobernables de Japon leader’s finisher), hitting a pair of Hidden Blades to set up Stormbreaker for the pin, keeping his title in the process.
During his show-closing promo, the Aerial Assassin issued an open challenge for Nov. 20’s Historic X-Over show with Stardom. The challenge was answered by another Young Lion returning to New Japan’s main stage — Shota Umino. Umino was already dubbed “Shooter” by his mentor Jon Moxley. Here he was introduced with a new nickname. Say hello to the Roughneck...
Umino fought of the assembled United Empire, then stood tall after hitting their leader with Mox’s Death Rider finish.
This was fun show that continues a run of those, and has the New Japan faithful optimistic the company’s regained the mojo they lost between AEW’s launch and the pandemic era. Here’s the full results:
• TJP & Francesco Akira def. BUSHI & Titan to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team championship
• United Empire (Aaron Henare, Gideon Gray, Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher) def. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Toru Yano, David Finlay & Alex Zayne
• Hikuleo def. Yujiro Takahashi
• Ren Narita def. SANADA to advance to the finals of the IWGP World Television Championship Tournament
• Zack Sabre Jr. def. EVIL to advance to the finals of the IWGP World Television Championship Tournament
• Master Wato & El Desperado def. Hiromu Takahashi & Taiji Ishimori
• Kazuchika Okada & Tama Tonga def. Jay White & KENTA
• FTR (Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler) def. The United Empire (Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb) to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team titles
• Will Ospreay def. Tetsuya Naito to retain the IWGP United States Heavyweight championship