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Ospreay & Omega steal the show at Wrestle Kingdom 17

New Japan’s annual Jan. 4 Tokyo Dome show was promoted as having two main events: Will Ospreay’s IWGP United States title defense against Kenny Omega, and IWGP World Heavyweight champion Jay White putting his belt on the line against G1 Climax winner Kazuchika Okada.

It made sense that White vs. Okada should go on last at Wrestle Kingdom 17. That match featured the company’s top prize, and involved their current Ace. Okada is sometimes referred to as the “modern day Inoki”, and with this show being dedicated to the late Antonio Inoki, pretty much everyone knew the show would end with the Rainmaker standing tall.

Lack of suspense about the outcome was one of the things working against Switchblade & Okada. The biggest, however, was that they had to follow Ospreay & Omega.

Opinions will vary on how good, of course. But I don’t think you’ll find too many people who’ll say the World title match wasn’t good. It felt like a Wrestle Kingdom main event, with all that they conveys. It had psychology, drama, and action. Gedo got involved, but it wasn’t overbooked like a lot of Bullet Club matches are. It clocked in at around like 30 minutes, much less than some New Japan epics.

It just wasn’t Omega vs. Ospreay.

There’s plenty of history between Okada & White, but the IWGP U.S. championship match has been building for years. Anticipation was sky high because Will & Kenny had only had one singles match against each other in their careers. Despite the fact they’ve been in different companies — and countries — for most of the past four years, they built this match with tweets and interviews. Ospreay delivered a killer promo at the pre-show press conference to remind everyone of the story and really sell the match.

Then they went and beat the crap out of each other for a half hour.

Ospreay bled, via a cut on his back from a table spot and a gash on his head he got when Kenny DDT-ed him into an exposed turnbuckle. Omega’s right eye was swollen shut, although I honestly am not sure if it was one of the forearms and Hidden Blade elbows he took, or the cumulative effect of all of them.

There was doubt about the victor, and some won’t be happy the story didn’t end with Ospreay being rewarded for his efforts to keep NJPW strong during the pandemic. The younger wrestler earned a lot of people’s respect with his performance, specifically his fighting spirit. He was defiant in defeat, and respectful in the aftermath.

Kenny put him over at the post-match presser, though. And a rematch looms, in either a New Japan or AEW ring (or both, if Forbidden Door happens again this year).

Sign us up for that. And if you sign up for NJPWWorld, both of Wrestle Kingdom 17’s main events are worth checking out. You’re probably gonna spend more time talking to people about the next-to-last one on the card, though.

Get complete results from Wrestle Kingdom 17 here.

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