Wrestle Kingdom 14 saw the Kingdom expand to two nights for the first time ever
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January 4 had been a tradition since 1992, and Wrestle Kingdom since 2007. With more eyes on NJPW at the Tokyo Dome year by year, it was by now very clear what the flagship event on the professional wrestling calendar was. When Wrestle Kingdom 14 and the year 2020 came around, change was afoot. The Kingdom was set to expand, as January 4 and 5 falling on a weekend meant that for the first time ever, the Tokyo Dome saw two consecutive nights of action.
What attractions would bring fans to the Dome for both January 4 and Janauary 5? Jyushin Thunder Liger calling time on a legendary career was certainly a big one, as was a string of hotly contested championship battles, with Will Ospreay and Hiromu Takahashi in a junior heavyweight classic, all the way to a classic grappling bout between Zack Sabre Junior and SANADA. At the top of the billing though was the Double Gold Dash to crown the first ever IWGP Intercontinental and Heavyweight Double Champion.
IWGP Heavyweight Champ Kazuchika Okada, Intercontinental Champion Jay White and G1 Climax winner and right to challenge briefcase holder Kota Ibushi all had much on the line they were gambling with at the Dome. Then there was Tetsuya Naito, entering with nothing and willing to sacrifice everything he did have in body and soul to finally live a dream of standing tall after the Tokyo Dome main event. After Ibushi and Okada wrestled a classic on January 4, it was the Rainmaker advancing, to take on Tetsuya Naito, with his heart on his sleeve, emblazoned with the mantra ‘todo o nada’.
For the aforementioned Liger, the last steps in the ring after a legendary career saw him first in a tag match that was an all star parade of legends and figures from his past. January 4 saw him in eight man action, teaming with close friend Tiger Mask and pioneering junior heavyweights Great Sasuke and Tatsumi Fujinami, as they faced Ryusuke Taguchi, Tatsuhito Takaiwa, Shinjiro Otani and Naoki Sano.
Finally, Liger would wrestle his last match the next night, teaming with Sano to face Hiromu Takahashi and Ryu Lee. A legendary junior heavyweight rivalry of the 1990s was fused with a legendary rivalry of the 2010s, and with a Time Bomb, time was called on a career that changed professional wrestling as we know it.
The entire world was on a precipice of change in January of 2020, and while great challenges awaited 70,000 Tokyo Dome attendees and far beyond in the months and even years to come, a different and more positive challenge had been spearheaded by Chris Jericho. In the wake of Kenny Omega’s defeat to Hiroshi Tanahashi one year prior, the Cleaner, along with the Young Bucks had left NJPW to form a new venture- All Elite Wrestling. Its top competitor come January 2020 was ‘Le Champion’ Chris Jericho, but Jericho had unfinished business in NJPW as well.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Chris Jericho was long a match on both men’s bucket lists, and was set for night one of Wrestle Kingdom. In raising the stakes though, Tanahashi recognised a certain accessory that was around the waist of Jericho. Suggesting that should he win in the Tokyo Dome, the Ace should have an opportunity at the AEW World Championship, Tanahashi ended up accidentally coining a phrase that would be the on the lips of wrestling fandom worldwide: The Forbidden Door.
It would be Jericho victorious that night in Tokyo, Tanahashi left with much to consider after a wild match saw him DDT’d atop the English announce desk, and ultimately submitted to a foundational hold in the Walls of Jericho Boston Crab. Two years later though, Tanahashi did get his shot at AEW gold, as the Forbidden Door finally opened in Chicago.
Watch Wrestle Kingdom 14 night 1!
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