New Japan Pro Wrestling's Wrestle Kingdom has made a name for itself over the last two decades for showcasing some of the best professional wrestling on the planet each year at the Tokyo Dome. It's a Jan. 4 tradition — and this year's card, stacked with the promotion's best talent, lived up to its storied history.
Looming large over this year's event was the death of NJPW founder Antonio Inoki, who started the promotion in the early '70s and who passed away in October.
As with Wrestle Kingdom 14, 15 and 16, the event takes place over two nights, but things are a little different this year. Rather than having the second night 24 hours after the first, Wrestle Kingdom 17's sequel will occur on Jan. 21 in Yokohama Arena. Matches for that card are yet to be determined, but rivalries were kindled on night one, with rival promotion NOAH instigating a backstage confrontation with NJPW's Los Ingobernables de Japon.
The headline bouts saw the epic return of AEW's Kenny Omega in a match against Will Ospreay for the IWGP United States Championship. It was an instant classic.
In the co-main event, Jay White faced off against perennial main-eventer Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship to close out the show. If you're an NJPW faithful, it's likely you know exactly who won that match.
Here we have the full results of the first night of Wrestle Kingdom, along with some stray observations and thoughts about how the night panned out.
How to rewatch Wrestle Kingdom 17
The easiest and most convenient way to rewatch is to sign up for NJPW World, the streaming service of NJPW. This gives you access to both Japanese and English commentary feeds of the night. Signup costs 999 yen, which is around $7.60 and gives you a month's access. You can watch live or on demand, so if you missed out on all the action, you can still catch it. That will also give you access to night two on Jan. 21.
If that's the case and you don't want any spoilers... don't read on.
Wrestle Kingdom 17 match card and results
Winners are denoted in bold.
- Ryohei Oiwa vs. Boltin Oleg (Exhibition) -- ended in a time limit draw.
- KOPW 2023 Right to Challenge Rumble -- Great-O-Khan, Sho, Toru Yano and Shingo Takagi were the final four. They will face off at New Year Dash on Jan. 5 for the KOPW Championship.
- Yuji Nagata, Satoshi and Togi Nakabe vs. Tatsumi Fujinami, Minoru Suzuki and Tiger Mask (Antonio Inoki memorial match).
- Catch 2/2 (TJP and Francesco Akira) (C) vs. CHAOS (Lio Rush and Yoh) for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.
- KAIRI (C) vs. Tam Nakano for the IWGP Women's Championship.
- FTR (Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler) (C) vs. Bishamon (Hirooki Goto and Yoshi-Hashi) for the IWGP Tag Team Championship.
- Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Ren Narita (First ever NJPW World Television Championship match).
- Karl Anderson (C) vs. Tama Tonga for NEVER Openweight Championship.
- Keiji Muto, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shota Umino vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon.
- Four-Way Match featuring Taiji Ishimori (C) vs. Hiromu Takahaski vs. El Desperado vs. Master Wato for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship -- Takahashi pins Master Wato.
- Will Ospreay (C) vs. Kenny Omega for the IWGP US Heavyweight Championship.
- Jay White (C) vs. Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship.
Stray thoughts and observations from Wrestle Kingdom 17
- Well, the rumors were true. Former WWE superstar Sasha Banks was expected to make her debut at the Tokyo Dome this year, as NJPW continues to build out its women's division, and she did -- as Mercedes Moné. She entered exactly when most predicted she would -- right after Kairi retained the IWGP Women's Championship. She announced the two would be facing each other at Battle in the Valley on Feb. 18.
- Bishamon's win was the first title change of the night.
- Zack Sabre Jr., a native Brit, called out UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during his entrance, screaming "pay nurses, dickhead, pay nurses a living wage."
- I thought we might see a more significant appearance from Katsuyori Shibata, who last wrestled at NJPW's Wrestle Kingdom 16. He was on commentary for the NJPW World Television Championship match.
- Zack Sabre Jr. joined the stable TMDK after winning his the World Television Championship, which was his first singles title in NJPW.
- Karl Anderson came out wearing an O.C. shirt, a WWE creation.
- The Anderson/Tonga match was really quite good but it ended with a pretty horrific botch by Anderson (I think?). Tonga tried the Gun Stun and Anderson seemed to throw him off... Messy.
- Tetsuya Naito giving off real Donnie Darko energy during his entrance with his rabbit mask. Also very reminiscent of WWE's Fiend, but I don't want to throw any stones.
- Keiji Muto's final match in NJPW really got the crowd going for the first time in the evening. Huge pop when Tanahashi told Muto not to try his moonsault.
- Absolutely loved that Los Ingobernables de Japon's Naito and Bushi just wore... the match T-shirts the whole time. Incredible.
- What in the everloving-Dark-Souls-Boss-Battle was Hiromu Takahashi wearing to the ring?
- During the Four Way, the commentary team announced that something had happened backstage, potentially between Tetsuya Naito and Shota Umino. Gino Gambino asked "What's Kenny done now?" referencing recent AEW trouble with CM Punk. It was a clear work and turned out to be NOAH's Kongo confronting Los Ingobernables de Japon with a nice plug for the YouTube channel.
- Kevin Kelly basically dropped an F bomb after Master Wato gave up on a pin... he somehow pulled out of the curse on the final syllable.
- Omega's return was pretty incredible. He goes full Sephiroth in his entrance, using the One Winged Angel theme and in burning Nibelheim mode. Wild stuff only topped by Ospreay's entrance.
- Kenny Omega won the belt off Will Ospreay after putting Ospreay through absolute hell. An incredible match that will score high on the Meltzer charts. Rematch please.
- Okada closed out the show with another W, winning the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship for the second time -- the first to do so in its very short existence. He was challenged by former champion Shingo Takagi after the match ended and a match was established for... well, it wasn't exactly clear but potentially New Beginning in Osaka.
- Okada was visibly emotional after the main event, delivering a speech about Antonio Inoki and the legacy of NJPW.