Shingo ends night with KOPW trophy, as TAKA Taichi comes to end
December 19 saw the final ever TAKA Taichi event in Yoyogi, as TAKA Michinoku and Taichi celebrated a combined 50 years of wrestling and marked the impending end of Suzuki-Gun as a faction.
The main event of the evening would be for the KOPW 2022 trophy, Shingo Takagi defending the title for the final time before its reset at Wrestle Kingdom. The bout would be a Takagi Style Last Man Standing match with lumberjacks; Texas Deathmatch style rules ensuring first a three count and then a ten count knockout would decide the match. While New Japan Pro-Wrestling and wrestlers from TAKA Michinoku’s Just Tap Out promotion were lumberjacks, Hiromu Takahashi and DOUKI filled guest roles, and it wasn’t long before the two were brawling at ringside.
While Shingo scored the first pinfall of the match, his Ground Cobra would not be enough to keep Taichi downed; similarly, Taichi’s Gedo Clutch wouldn’t provide a knockout, even though the cunning Holy Emperor tried to pin the Dragon for a full 13. Instead the match escalated in violence, with the two men exchanging heavy lariats and Dangerous Backdrops, as the lumberjacks did an admirable job of keeping the match center ring. A pair of successive Made In Japans didn’t put Taichi away, nor did a Taichi Style Last Ride, the vocal crowd in Yoyogi growing ever louder as the match became more intense.
Countering a super Nodo Otoshi off the top rope, Takagi hit Stay Dream, before a Taichi Black Mephisto led to a double fall, the ten count applied to both men, who somehow made their way back to a vertical base. After the Takagi Driver ’98 that defeated El Phantasmo in New York still wasn’t enough, Taichi planted a head kick to Shingo, but was sent into an exposed turnbuckle before Pumping Bomber and the decisive Last of the Dragon.
An emotional address would see Taichi and Suzuki-Gun mark the end of TAKA Taichi events, with a self aware grin, and more than a few tears in the eyes. Ending the night with a ‘TAKA Taichi Ichiban!’ call, it was a twist in the tail of the traditional declaration that Taichi and TAKA were ‘number two’, but one that was more than justified.
Another featured singles bout on the event saw Hiromu Takahashi face TAKA Michinoku. The two out of three falls match would have an added stipulation; that if Michinoku kicked out of Hiromu’s Unnamed Hiromu Roll, or if Takahashi kicked out of TAKA’s Michonoku Driver II, 1,000,000 Yen (approx $75,000 USD) had to change hands.
The pace was quickly set as TAKA baited Hiromu in with a handshake and quickly looked for a quick win, but it would be Michinoku losing the first fall with the Unnamed Roll. In the second, TAKA unleashed a vicious assault on the arm and shoulder of Hiromu before going for Michinoku Driver II; Hiromu kicked out of the hold ensuring the cash went to the Time Bomb, but a follow-up Unnamed Roll would see Michinoku kick out, the cash returning to TAKA as Time Bomb II ended the bout in two straight falls.
At the behest of El Desperado, Suzuki-Gun’s masked master would face DDT’s charismatic Damnation leader Daisuke Sasaki on the card, Sasaki teaming with MJ Paul as a last minute request for backup brought Lance Archer to the SZKG side. There was a mutual respect between Sasaki and Desperado, but none as far as Archer was concerned, the DDT representative feeling the power of the Murderhawk Monster before Damnation took advantage on the floor, thanks to the interference of Just Tap Out wrestler Kanon.
When Desperado finally tagged Lance back in, Archer rampaged through both MJ Paul and Kanon, but Damnation used their numbers advantage effectively to cut off Archer, and get Sasaki back on offense with Desperado. As Despe looked for Guitarra Del Angel in response, an expert counter put him in a punishing crossface instead, and when Desperado recovered to hit the Mad Splash on Sasaki with Archer’s aid, Kanon saw to it that the referee did not count three. A chair shot in full view of the official was the last straw to getting the match thrown out in Suzuki-Gun’s favour. Post match, an angered Sasaki stole Desperado’s mask, but the rudo would take it right back after a low blow; as the two continued to fight, Desperado demanded a title match after he wins the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship at the Tokyo Dome.
Kicking off the Suzuki-Gun representation on the card were DOUKI and Minoru Suzuki, who faced Tomoaki Honma and Jun Kasai a mere five days after the King announced the dissolution of Suzuki-Gun at the end of this year. Given the circumstances, the ‘Crazy Monkey’ had a simple request for Suzuki- that the match be contested under hardcore rules.
It didn’t take long for Suzuki to be busted open with a chair, before Kasai bowled the King into Minoru Collection AT at the announce desk. As the claret flowed, Suzuki’s fury grew, and it wasn’t long before a bundle of skewers was stabbed into the hardcore legend’s head. DOUKI too would be bloodied as Tomoaki Honma reawakened his own deathmatch brutal side, and soon it would be Honma and Suzuki clashing bloodied skulls center ring. Ultimately it would be a rear naked choke that sank the Kokeshi into a deep sleep to lose the match for his side, Suzuki reminding Kasai and the fans that he is forever the king of professional wrestling.