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In Part Two, Will Ospreay received his crowning moment at a broken Kazuchika Okada's expense, relieving him of his duties as IWGP World Heavyweight Champion and opening his doors to further bloodshed between CHAOS and Takeover. Proceeding to run through New Japan's elite, he took down Kenny Omega, Katsuyori Shibata, and Zack Sabre Jr. in one fell swoop, only for his dream of main eventing Wrestle Kingdom as champion to be crushed by one Shingo Takagi
. Now, though the Dragon may be the titleholder, all is far from well in his den. Between Los Ingobernables de Japon in-fighting with G1 Climax 33 Winner Tetsuya Naito and PAC stealing his belt, he has much to address moving forwards.
Dynamite (November 1, 2023)
After shockingly robbing Shingo Takagi of his title, PAC interrupts mid-show, belt slung over his shoulder, scowl on his face. He rants about how ever since joining AEW, he’s been disrespected and overlooked, not even being booked for half a year after losing the AEW World Trios Championship, instead having to source work in NJPW with the G1 to finally pop back on the radar. Well now, he’s no longer sitting around in wait for others to give him opportunities. He’s taking them by force. Seeing as he beat Tetsuya Naito in the G1 yet Tetsuya’s been confirmed for WK’s main event without even defending his case against him, he’s decided he’s going to enter the match through his own means. He wants Shingo for the title! For his
title. And until he gets his match, he’s not returning the strap.
Collision (November 4, 2023)
PAC vs CIMA
With PAC and Shingo’s obvious connection to Dragongate, The Bastard wrestles an exhibition match against one of the standout names who made his name there, CIMA! Tied to the early days of AEW’s legacy, the veteran reminds the world of his immense talent here, wrestling a very DG-style high-speed match, PAC matching him every step of the way. Though he gives him a solid fight, a Brutaliser cuts things mercifully short, PAC keeping it in until after the bell!
PAC def. CIMA (10:05)
PAC briefly pausing to snatch up the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship and raise it over his head, before going back to stomping out CIMA… HE’S INTERRUPTED BY SHINGO’S MUSIC!!! Takagi bolting out, the Black Arrow cuts his losses and flees, leaving the belt behind as Shingo checks on CIMA, hissing with anger. Reclaiming his belt, he tells PAC he’s on!
Full Gear (November 12, 2023)
Shingo Takagi (c) vs PAC - IWGP World Heavyweight Championship
PAC’s first match outside WWE pitting him against Shingo in tag team action in Takagi’s final matches with Dragongate before signing with NJPW, they finally cross paths again in singles action for the first time since 2011, the Dragon having won all 3 past encounters. Two of the most intense wrestlers around, there’s no shortage of aggression between the two, Takagi raring for revenge on PAC for stealing his moment, and PAC simply wanting to ruin everyone’s lives for the betterment of his own.
Tearing into each other for the better part of half an hour, PAC is absolutely feral here, not letting this rare opportunity go to waste one bit, giving the champion all sorts of hell. Shingo, seeing some Ospreay in the Bastard, gives him the same respect he does his toughest rival, though the comparison only sets PAC off further, teasing introducing the title belt itself into the match, only to spike Shingo with a Tornado DDT off the distraction! Nailing the BLACK ARROW on the Dragon, he hooks the leg! ONE! TWO! THREE!!!
Or is it? PAC thinks he’s won the title, elated, only to turn around to the referee pointing on Shingo’s leg on the ropes! It’s Neville/Rollins all over again! If PAC was thought to have lost it so far, the depths he reaches at this point are undefinable, nailing every last trick in the book he knows before wrenching in THE BRUTALISER! Wanting to submit Shingo like he did CIMA, he puts him on the brink of passing out, but unlike the Flower of Evil, Takagi’s simply too strong for PAC, managing to shake him off, before eventually nailing the LAST OF THE DRAGON!!! ONE! TWO! THREE!!!
Shingo Takagi (c) def. PAC to retain the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship (25:13)
Though PAC lost at Full Gear, by the manner which he eyes Shingo and his title when leaving the ring, it’s clear matters are not yet over between them. However, for now, Takagi has the remaining month until January 4 to focus on. With Naito winning at Power Struggle in a tag match pitting him and Hiromu against Ospreay and Akira, El Ingobernable has all the momentum he needs behind him, though what lies between now and Tokyo Dome surprises him.
With Dragongate’s 20th Year Anniversary celebrations coming up, one of the most heated rivalries in the company’s history is revisited when Shingo’s called out by BxB Hulk! Their last interaction seeing them team up in the penultimate match of DG’s final big show of 2022 to great success in a surprise return by Takagi, Hulk now wants a shot at beating Shingo exactly one year later, seeing the title on his shoulder as a means of proving himself better than Takagi’s best version ever.
Naturally accepting an opportunity to knock Hulk’s head off once more, the blockbuster main event is set for The Final Gate, but before then, Hulk invites him and Naito to a preview tag match, knowing he can milk the uncomfortable setting and watch Shingo suffer by it. Though not pleased at the thought, Takagi does inform Tetsuya, who agrees to help him, better together than at each other’s throats.
Dragongate The Gate of Origin (December 10, 2023)
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito) vs GOLD CLASS (BxB Hulk & Ben-K)
Three of DG’s greats and one NJPW pillar all in the same ring, it’s as blockbuster a match as can be, the four megastars putting on a thrilling showcase of their talents, the beloved Shingo especially getting the spotlight to Naito’s subtle annoyance, no longer the most popular man in the building. Nonetheless, with a crucial match less than one month away, LIJ are at their best even with their issues, the Destino/Pumping Bomber combo to Ben-K getting the win, though Naito making a point to be the one making the cover as Shingo is left to lock eyes with Hulk.
Los Ingobernables de Japon def. GOLD CLASS (21:35)
Dragongate The Final Gate (December 17, 2023)
Shingo Takagi vs BxB Hulk XIV
A history built on friendship, betrayal, and subsequent hatred, the arrogant detestable Shingo and the adored underdog Hulk have long grown since their last match 5 years ago, Takagi currently his company’s frontman and BxB still hanging on in his 40’s for DG. With Shingo having never beaten Hulk with a World Title over his shoulder, BxB having done so twice to him, The Dragon channels every last fiery breath of his into silencing his career rival for good, knocking Hulk around the arena and into the ring post like the old days, even playing it heelish at points, ever the superstar Hulk always wished to be. And after a thoroughly personal trip down memory lane, 20 years of DG tip in favour of the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, who puts Hulk down for good! In a show of respect after the match, Takagi bows to Hulk, entrusting the people to him as he turns his attention back to his new home.
Shingo Takagi def. BxB Hulk (26:11)
Road To Tokyo Dome - Night Two (December 23, 2023)
Also on the tour: CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tomohiro Ishii) (c) vs United Empire (Will Ospreay, Great-O-Khan, Aaron Henare) - NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, Yota Tsuji & Titan) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI)
One final stop on the road to Wrestle Kingdom, and it’s arguably the most important one yet. With Shingo and Naito’s divide over leadership growing only stronger by the minute, what started as being mediated by LIJ has now turned into them being forced to pick sides against their wills. Takagi’s grown tired of existing in Naito’s shadow despite holding the title, believing he’s more cut out to lead them, receiving support from his fellow newer class of LIJ blood, Yota Tsuji, as well as another recent recruit in Titan. However, Naito’s still the familia’s franchise to the group’s OGs, Hiromu and BUSHI letting loyalty speak for itself by siding with their leader in his bid to end his 3-year chase for the title currently around Takagi’s waist. Battlelines drawn, the blockbuster showdown closes out the Road To Tokyo Dome tour!
Brute force colliding with agility, the familial bond between LIJ only continues to be blurred as Shingo and Naito bark out orders to their respective teammates, directing traffic in this psychological warfare grown physical. It’s a slow build of the tempo until the crescendo of Shingo and Naito finally touching for the first time since the G1 Finals is reached, Tetsuya leaning heavily on his mind games whilst Takagi simply throws mean bombs, adamant to finally prove he’s better than his leader. Not overexposing their strategies too much, the match ultimately sees Naito nail Titan with the Destino to win, once more having the last laugh over Shingo!
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI) def. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, Yota Tsuji & Titan) (17:20)
In a final press conference heading into Wrestle Kingdom 18, Takagi and Naito share their thoughts on the upcoming match. Shingo declares that NJPW is no longer about Tetsuya, who squandered countless valuable opportunities between Takagi losing and regaining the title, those matches proving his days are over. He may not be the archetype Okada is, he may not be the fan favourite Naito is, he may not be the international star Ospreay is, but damn it, he doesn’t care for any of that. He's walking into New Japan’s biggest show of the year as champion, and he’s walking out of it as champion, simple as.
As for Naito, he muses that this could very well be his last moment in the Sun, the result of the match dictating the direction his career goes. Either he wins and reclaims his spot atop NJPW, getting to have the run the pandemic robbed him of. Or he loses on the grandest stage and leaves with nothing… but that’s not happening. He’s beaten Shingo both times they’ve fought and he doesn’t plan on dropping the third. But that’s not just because the title’s on the line. It’s the topic Shingo’s smartly chosen to avoid speaking on. He’d be a fool to think his spot isn’t under threat. EVIL betrayed him. SANADA did too. There’s nothing stopping Shingo from doing it either… so it’s up to him to chop down the Hydra before the issue persists. He loves LIJ and he loves Shingo, but this moment is about him and everything he’s sacrificed, so he asks Takagi to not take it to heart when Naito takes what’s long overdue his.
Wrestle Kingdom 18 (January 4, 2024)
Also on the show: NEVER Openweight Championship: Jeff Cobb (c) vs Ren Narita NJPW World Television Championship: Zack Sabre Jr. (c) vs Taichi IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: KUSHIDA (c) vs Mike Bailey PAC vs Hiromu Takahashi IWGP Tag Team Championship: Aussie Open (c) vs TMDK IWGP United States Championship: Katsuyori Shibata (c) vs Tomohiro Ishii Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Will Ospreay Kazuchika Okada vs Kaito Kiyomiya III
Shingo Takagi (c) vs Tetsuya Naito III - IWGP World Heavyweight Championship
As blockbuster as it gets on the Tokyo Dome stage, two LIJ members close out the night for the very first time in Naito’s home city! Two men that go back to their days together in high school, none of that matters now, the title all they care about. Dressed to the nines, Naito emerges from a helicopter like a true Ingobernable, sporting a black suit to represent his Dark Ace persona, an entire army of LIJ supporters backing him from the stage.
Before their first match, Naito declared he wanted to face a Shingo that could feasibly take LIJ from him and now more than ever he’s going to get it, but perhaps should be careful what he wishes for. Winning their past two matches, all he needs to do is replicate the feat one more time. Speak of the champ, Takagi emerges from the mouth of a Dragon’s lair, fireballs rising along the stage, Shingo in an all red regal fit, ready to spill blood. Losing to Okada two years ago when he was in this position, it’s about redemption for him and proving to his leader the future of LIJ is now, old man.
Once Naito slowly strips down out of his suit and Shingo sheds his skin, handing over the strap, the January 4 main event gets underway! It’s typical Naito behaviour from the jump, stalling for the opening minute as both men absorb the feel of the cheering crowd, split down the middle between the ways LIJ could go. Shingo’s stoic whilst Tetsuya smirks, sending some words Takagi’s way, before raising the LIJ fist! But Shingo rocks him with a jab!
A quick feeling out process sees Shingo gain the momentary upper hand off a rough Shoulder Tackle, only to turn into a Flying Forearm Smash from Naito! Tetsuya goes wild on Takagi with blows, the Dragon simply absorbing them, shaking them off and letting out a roar after another Shoulder Tackle! But Naito skids off the mat this time and recovers into his Tranquilo Pose instead, drawing the ire of Takagi!
Shingo smacks him with a boot to the cheek, backing Naito into the corner where he goes ham with piston strikes to the body, a CORNER BOMBER whiplashing Naito’s head against the turnbuckle! Swiping out the legs, he mocks Naito’s “Abre Los Ojos” taunt, going for Tetsuya’s COMBINACION CABRON! Naito has it scouted however, stopping the closing Mule Kick by snapping Takagi against the top rope with a SWINGING NECKBREAKER! TORNADO DDT crunches him on his dome, Shingo kicking out at 2!
Firing up, Takagi demands for more, Naito shrugging as he teases another Flying Forearm Smash, only to slip behind into the POLVO DE ESTRELLA COVER! ONE! TWO! THR-KICK OUT! Shingo doesn’t even have time to chew Naito out for doing the complete opposite as asked, instantly being rolled into a SICK DRAGON SUPLEX ON THE DRAGON! Takagi clutches his neck as Naito grins at him, now following up with a COMBINACION CABRON of his own, telling Shingo not to steal if he can’t take the fire himself!
Takagi dazed, Naito scales up top for a MISSILE DROPKICK- TAKAGI TURNS HIM INSIDE-OUT MIDAIR WITH A PUMPING BOMBER!!! NOSHIGAMI! ONE! TWO! THR-KICK OUT! Battering him with a Pumping Combo, chops and punches blister and bruise Tetsuya’s body, before a HIGH-ANGLE GERMAN DROPS HIM ON HIS NECK!!! Shingo looks satisfied with himself as he sits in his cross-legged pose… BUT NAITO RISES UP BEHIND HIM!
Rolling Wheel Kick to the back of the head snaps Takagi out of dream state as Tetsuya rallies with a series of forearms, before testing his luck with a PUMPING BOMBER OF HIS OWN! SHINGO SHRUGS IT OFF, PISSED! Realising he messed up, Naito tries to escape the Dragon’s wrath, but Shingo grabs him by the trunks to pull him back into a MADE IN JAPAN attempt! Tetsuya frantically fights free with back elbows to the neck, ONLY TO BE SPUN AROUND INTO A DRAGON SOUL LARIAT, NAITO ROCKED TO HIS CORE!
Naito collapsing outside, a TOPE CON HILO wipes him out! Shingo ragdolls his stablemate about ringside, hurling him from post-to-pillar, though a GUARDRAIL POWERBOMB is countered into a NECKBREAKER ON THE STEEL! ESPERANZA ON THE FLOOR BY NAITO! Shingo nursing the neck, Naito tosses him in and recovers for a moment, before heading up top, CONNECTING THE MISSILE DROPKICK! AND A GLORIA!!! ONE! TWO! THR-NOOOOOOOOO!!!
Shingo in the drop zone, Naito teases the RUNNING DESTINO, but Takagi catches him, TRYING FOR A FIRE THUNDER DRIVER!!! Tetsuya scrabbles like a cat falling out a tree, whacking Shingo in the nose with his boot to free himself! A stiff forearm connects with the damaged neck, but as Naito goes for a German, Takagi beats it and folds him with a SAITO SUPLEX! LEGEND FALCONRY CONNECTS!!! ONE! TWO! THR-NAITO SURVIVES!!!
Tetsuya in a dream state, Shingo clubs him with clotheslines, a YUKON LARIAT cleaning him off his feet! Grabbing him by the scruff, Takagi pulls him up… HOOKING AN STO, WANTING EVERYTHING IS EVIL!!! His cheeky smirk is wiped off by an EYE RAKE though, Naito furiously exploding with punches and a mouthful of SPIT in Shingo’s face, showing what he thinks of LIJ’s first traitor!
Knocking Shingo down with his own lariat, he sets up a SWING DESTINO, but Takagi grabs his leg! Naito tries to fight him off, though Shingo’s too powerful, yanking him into a draped position in the ropes! Heading to the adjacent corner, he climbs as Naito pulls himself up in hopes of freeing himself… COAST-TO-COAST BOMBER NAILS NAITO!!! MADE IN JAPAN!!! ONE! TWO! THR-ANOTHER CLOSE CALL!!!
Shingo roars, setting up the LAST OF THE DRAGON- NAITO COUNTERS INTO A SURPRISE DESTINO!!! Takagi crashing on the bad neck, he’s jelly-legged as Tetsuya bumrushes him with forearms, though as he kneels to counter another DESTINO, Naito dumps him with a GERMAN INSTEAD! AND A RUNNING DESTINOOOOOOOOO!!! ONE! TWO! THR-SHINGO GETS THE SHOULDER UP!!! Naito cracks Takagi with headbutts, but it only angers the bull, who launches one back despite the neck!
Tetsuya winces and smirks through the pain, knowing this hurts Shingo more than him, the Dragon remaining prideful with each counter headbutt, UNTIL A POISONED FRANKENSTEINER SPIKES HIM! SKULL END!!! Naito’s embracing the trauma! Keeping it in deep for a few moments as Takagi struggles, Tetsuya promptly lets go and looks at the turnbuckles… RAISING HIS FIST TO THE SKY, HE WANTS A STARDUST PRESS!!! Shades of his matches with Okada in the Dome, Naito goes for the Hail Mary… IT MISSES!!! TAKAGI GETS HIM UP FOR A LAST OF THE DRAGON!!! HE FINALLY HITS IT AFTER FAILING BOTH PAST MATCHES!!! ONE! TWO! THR-NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
Takagi’s taken aback, certain it was the piece of the equation he’d been missing. Angered, he knocks his own brutal forearms into Naito’s non-existent neck, an AXE BOMBER KNOCKING HIM DOWN! Naito gasping for air, a SICKENING DRAGON SOUL LARIAT follows! Now staggered himself, he throws wild, yet feeble shots, missing Shingo each time as he pops up his foe. Looking him dead in the eyes, Shingo hits off the ropes once, twice, thrice… PUMPING BOMBERRRRRRRRRRRRR!!! Scooping him up for another LAST OF THE DRAGON… NAITO COUNTERS WITH A VALENTIA!!!
Both men down, Tokyo goes nuts as they slowly pull themselves up using each other, butting heads! Trading blows again, a Dragon Soul rocks Naito, BUT HE THROWS ONE BACK! AND A FOREARM! A HEADBUTT! Naito runs the ropes, but so does Shingo, once, twice, thrice, TORNADO DD- PUMPING BOMBER!!! Grabbing the wrist from behind, TAKAGI WANTS THE RIPCORD BOMBER!!! BUT NAITO WITH A DESTINOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! ONE! TWO! THR-NOOOOOOOOO!!!
Now Naito’s in shock, mere inches from the win! Seeing his hometown on their feet for him, new life rushes through him, nodding to himself as he sets up again the DESTINO! Shingo throws his body weight forwards though, both men collapsing to the apron! Trading punches, it’s the HEADBUTT which subdues Takagi, his neck in sheer agony! AND NOW NAITO WANTS THE APRON DESTINO INSTEAD… SHINGO SHOVES HIM OFF! APRON CANADIAN DESTROYER!!! REVENGE FOR THE 2019 G1!!!
Naito’s eyes are glazed over, all the years of abuse to his own neck catching up to him! Takagi hoists him up, seating him on the turnbuckle, before raising his own fist skywards! Meeting Tetsuya up there, who gives one last fight with forearms to the neck, a DRAGON SOUL silences him! Grabbing the wrist, Shingo picks him up on top of the world… STAY DREAM!!! ONE! TWO! THREE!!!
Shingo Takagi (c) def. Tetsuya Naito to retain the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship (40:40)
It’s over. Once more, Naito’s championship dreams have been shattered into stardust as Takagi finally scores the win that’s eluded him throughout his NJPW run! Tokyo’s a stunned silence as they watch Shingo be handed his title, holding his hand high as Tetsuya lays still on the mat. Is Naito truly finished? LIJ pour out, Hiromu and BUSHI rushing to check on the Stardust Genius, while Yota and Titan check on Takagi as he suddenly stumbles back into the corner, clutching his neck.
As Naito’s helped to his feet, there’s a standstill between the two halves of LIJ as they stare each other down, intensity stemming from Shingo and Naito. Takagi pushes Yota and Titan aside, stepping forward whilst nursing his neck, Naito doing the same, butting heads with the Dragon again! …But then a smirk appears on Naito’s face, raising high the LIJ fist! And Shingo smirks back, raising his own to meet it! AND THEY EMBRACE!
What was thought to be the war that could fracture LIJ in half forever has only brought its two strongest members closest together! Grabbing a mic, Naito congratulates Shingo for finally beating him. He knew this day would eventually come, and he couldn’t be prouder of his friend. Though this loss stings him, the journey is never over him, and rest assured, he’ll be coming back for the throne, rested and healthy again, Naito winking at Takagi as he says so, who reciprocates with an inviting grin.
But right now is not about him. In fact, he may not even be long for the wrestling world with the condition his neck and knees are in. That’s why he’d like to make an announcement. From henceforth, he’s no longer the sole leader of LIJ. He wants Shingo to lead beside him! Takagi’s stunned by the offer, but Naito insists, explaining that though EVIL and SANADA were corrupted by greed for power, it was never about that to him. LIJ is his family, and he only wants what’s best for them. If that means Takagi calling the shots when he’s unable to, he’ll do that. Shingo gives him a bow of acceptance!
LIJ all smiles, united stronger than ever, Naito beckons them all to the centre of the ring, before gesturing to Takagi to cement his leadership by doing the roll-call! Takagi nodding, he accepts the mic from him and raises his fist to the sky as everyone follows… but right as he’s about to speak, the crowd bursts into gasps which catches Shingo’s attention, as OUT WALKS PAC!!!
Having hunted down and beaten LIJ members since his loss to Shingo, he snarls as he stalks his way to the ring, LIJ falling into defensive position! Stepping inside, he looks them left to right, scowling at their clenched fists, before raising his mic. He says that ever since he set foot in NJPW at the G1 Climax, he’s been a man possessed with his goal to take what he’s been deprived of. He stomped out Naito, he stole Shingo’s belt, he just beat Hiromu earlier in the night… yet none of that has left him satisfied the way he thought it would. It had him thinking the question – why?
And then he realised. LIJ isn’t the enemy. They’re misfits, just like him. Oppressed, just like him. He banded together Death Triangle in the face of The Elite, but now, he seeks a far greater position. With contract negotiations having come up, his 5-year AEW deal finally expiring, he’s opted for one that’ll allow him to work both AEW and NJPW, covering his bases so he doesn’t go unbooked anymore. And with these recent matches causing him to gain respect for the Ingobernables and their unrestrained manner of operations, he knows from experience that if you wish to rise to the top in Japan… it’s good to have allies. Tossing his mic aside, PAC RAISES HIS FIST TO THE SKY!
LIJ’s taken aback by the gesture from the Bastard that’s almost tried to tear them apart in the past months as much as they have themselves… BUT SHINGO RECIPROCATES TO HIS DRAGONGATE BROTHER! AND NOW HIROMU! YOTA! TITAN! BUSHI! AND NAITO!!! Raising his mic back up, Shingo declares “TITAN! BUSHI! TSUJI! HIROMU! NAITO! PAC! Y SHINGO! NOSOTROS… LOS INNNNGOBERRRNAAAABLESSSSSSS DE JA-PON!!!”. Tickertape explodes from the turnbuckles as Tokyo erupts into cheers, LIJ closing the show a united family again!
New Year Dash!! (January 5, 2024)
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, Tetsuya Naito, PAC, Yota Tsuji, Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI) vs Sabre-Gun (Zack Sabre Jr., El Phantasmo, TMDK, El Desperado, Kosei Fujita)
As usual, the night after Wrestle Kingdom is rife with excitement and new beginnings, and at the centre of it all lies the age-old rivalry between LIJ and Zack Sabre Jr.! Fresh off losing his Television Championship to Taichi after a year-long reign, he immediately sets his sights on the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, a victory here sure to propel him to the top. And with LIJ finally back to being a cohesive, functioning family again, their redefined chemistry is put up to the test here.
Batting off the initial concerns of another blow-up, the rebels have never been more in sync than now under Naito and Shingo’s shared guidance, the added element of PAC only further helping than hindering. Still, Sabre-Gun is menacing, a driven Sabre sicking his troops on the opposition like the masterful general he is, yet to his annoyance, the crowd remain enamoured by the Bastard, who taps out Fujita to the Brutaliser as he stares down the Technical Wizard, sending a statement!
Los Ingobernables de Japon def. Sabre-Gun (18:07)
Whilst ZSJ throws a fit, promising LIJ they haven’t seen the last of him as he leaves with Sabre-Gun, LIJ raise their fists to the sky with Shingo returning the favour from last night by letting Naito do the roll-call this time, grins all around. That is… until the coin drops. HERE COMES OKADA! Turning to Naito, Shingo gives him the nod that he’s got this sorted, Tetsuya tipping his cap back and taking LIJ away with him to give the two space as the rivals lock eyes.
Mic in hand, Okada runs down Shingo, calling his reign an insult to NJPW, despising the Dragon’s prideful embracement of his Dragongate past when he should be representing their company. With Okada’s trilogy against Kaito finished in his favour, playtime’s over and the Rainmaker’s come back knocking for his crown, having beaten Shingo in the G1. Shingo, remembering how his last reign ended… accepts! Butting heads with Okada, he warns him he’s even more dangerous now, so he shouldn’t expect to walk away with his gold this time.
Wrestle Kingdom 18 in Yokohama Arena (January 21, 2024)
Shingo Takagi (c) vs Kazuchika Okada VI - IWGP World Heavyweight Championship
In the past year, Okada’s descent into madness has seen embark on an emerald voyage to kill off any outsider or youngster eyeballing his spot, even brutally exiling members from CHAOS to reshape it into men who fit his regime. Seeing Takagi as low-life scum, he’s adamant to ‘fix’ NJPW again so that his efforts from last year don’t go to waste, knowing the continued deviance LIJ’s control will cause from his ‘purer’ path. Shingo, on the other hand, has been collecting milestones, from finally beating Ospreay for the title, to finally knocking off Naito to affirm his spot at LIJ’s top and win a January 4 main event to redeem his loss two years prior against the man who now stands in his way again, the only natural next bucket list item hence being beating Okada back on the WK stage.
A gruelling war over New Japan’s vision spans over the next half hour (akin to the classic they’d actually have at New Beginning 2023), Okada mercilessly dumping Shingo over and over again on the neck Naito had loosened up, whilst Takagi holds his own more than he ever has in the past, blistering the Ace with lariats that leave welts all over! The first RAINMAKER hits like a gunshot though, damn near taking Shingo out, yet he keeps fighting through the damaged neck! MADE IN JAPAN has Okada rethinking his decisions to challenge, and a STAY DREAM tease almost gets him!
A vicious TOMBSTONE drills him on the floor though, sending spasms down from his neck to his limbs, another RAINMAKER pushing him to his last legs! As Okada preps one final one… TAKAGI NAILS HIS OWN RIPCORD BOMBER!!! The FIRE THUNDER DRIVER now has Kazu reeling himself, and a LAST OF THE DRAGON scores a mighty near-fall! OKADA RESPONDS WITH ONE OF HIS OWN, GETTING SHINGO BACK FOR THE RIPCORD!!! Inching closer and closer to the vaunted third Rainmaker, Okada has Shingo’s neck in dire straits with the Money Clip, but as he finally swings… TAKAGI CATCHES IT! ANOTHER LAST OF THE DRAGON!!! ONE! TWO! THREE!!!
Shingo Takagi (c) def. Kazuchika Okada to retain the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship (32:07)
Despite the odds stacked against him, Shingo’s managed to tie his score against Okada, 3-3, avenging his WK heartbreak from 2022, whilst Kazu’s grip on New Japan continues to falter, the ungovernables wrecking his ideal world. Refusing to let them slip however, LIJ and CHAOS continue to feud into the New Beginning tour, where a massive tag is set up pitting Shingo & Naito against Okada & Tanahashi!
The New Beginning in Sapporo - Night Two (January 28, 2024)
Also on the tour: IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: CHAOS (SHO & Taiji Ishimori) (c) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI) Katsuyori Shibata (c) vs KENTA - IWGP United States Championship
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito) vs CHAOS (Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kazuchika Okada)
With Hiromu & BUSHI dethroning SHO & Taiji last night, matters are even more tense now in the power struggle between the stables. Endless shared history between these four men, it clearly shows with the animosity they greet each other with, Takagi and Okada continuing their war from Yokohama as Naito continues to drift further every day from the man he used to resemble in Tanahashi.
Tetsuya manages to get some well-earned revenge against the man who withheld the World Title from him throughout 2022, Okada, a Destino/Bomber showing Naito and Takagi to be fully in tune again, but when a Twist and Shout to Shingo’s neck takes him out, it’s down to Naito and Tanahashi again! Tetsuya trying to recover some momentum to speed up his rise back to challenging Shingo, he gives Hiroshi his all, though the Dragon Screws prove too much for his bad knees, a TEXAS CLOVERLEAF submitting him!
CHAOS def. Los Ingobernables de Japon (21:15)
With Tanahashi’s win over the LIJ leader duo, he calls out Shingo in a post-show interview, saying it’s been 3 years since he’s had a chance to challenge for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, his last match notably enough coming against Shingo himself. He’s not getting any younger as it seems and he wants nothing more than one last run at the top… so for the sake of sparing the company he broke his back for the past two decades from LIJ’s undesirable direction, he wishes to bring gold back to CHAOS! Record level 1-1 between the two, Takagi fearlessly accepts, setting up a blockbuster showdown for Osaka!
The New Beginning in Osaka (February 10, 2024)
Also on the show: KUSHIDA (c) vs YOH - IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship TMDK (c) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (PAC & Yota Tsuji) - IWGP Tag Team Championship Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI) (c) vs CHAOS (SHO & Taiji Ishimori) vs SixorNine (Master Wato & Ryusuke Taguchi) - IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship
Shingo Takagi (c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi III - IWGP World Heavyweight Championship
3 years ago on the New Beginning tour, Shingo and Tanahashi met for the first time, the Ace of the Universe taking the NEVER Openweight Championship from him, before Takagi returned the favour 6 months later, keeping the World Title from Hiroshi. Now, in a war of ideologies, they settle the score! Even at 47, Tana’s flamboyant as ever in his entrance, turning back the clocks with a full rockstar entrance as women swoon over the Japanese God. Shingo’s comparatively humble in his entrance, glaring taped-up neck keeping his head bowed, yet nostrils flaring, ready for battle.
It's a classic Tanahashi start, slapping on the headlock to grind down his foe, only now it means that much more with the condition of Shingo’s neck. As Hiroshi reaches for Takagi’s tape, Shingo butts into his chest with his shoulder to shove him off and fires up a Pumping Combo! Chop, punch, chop, punch, chop, punc- DRAGON-STYLE HARITE FROM TANA KNOCKS THE TASTE OUT OF SHINGO’S MOUTH! Takagi doubled over, Hiroshi hammers elbows into his exposed neck, a Low Dropkick cutting him down and a Neckbreaker flooring him for 2!
Heading to the middle rope, a SOMERSAULT SENTON BOMB is evaded, Tana crashing on his back! Now Shingo blasts him with the ground and pound! A Knee Drop sits Hiroshi up, before a SLIDING D knocks him back down for 2! Whipping Tana into the corner, a CORNER BOMBER heads his way like a missile, but a Big Boot and a HIGH FLY ATTACK cuts him off, before Tana strums the air guitar!
He grabs the waist, but a Snap DDT stops him, an ORIGINAL FALCONRY from Shingo slamming him down! Beating Tana’s chest like a drum, he guillotines him in the ropes with a PUMPING BREAKER! A Gallon Throw attempt follows, but Tana spins around into a FALL IN LOVE PIN! ONE! TWO! THR-KICK OUT! And before Shingo can do anything, Hiroshi nails the head with a Low Dropkick! HASE-STYLE URANAGE SPIKES HIM ON HIS NECK!!!
Hurt, Takagi collapses to the outside, prompting Tana to spear the Dragon into the guardrail with a DRAGON ROCKET! Climbing the ropes, Hiroshi measures for a HIGH FLY FLOW- CAUGHT ON SHINGO’S SHOULDERS!!! DEATH VALLEY BOMB ON THE FLOOR!!! The back that once carried NJPW now sears in agony as Takagi rolls him in, a SOL DE JAPON CONNECTING! Smacking a Dragon Soul Lariat off him, a HIGH-ANGLE BELLY-TO-BACK SUPLEX DROPS TANA! ONE! TWO! THR-NO DICE!
Loading the Ace of the Universe onto his shoulders, he nails a BUCKLE BOMB… BUT TANA EXPLODES BACK WITH A SLING BLADE!!! Both downed for a moment, Tana beats a Yukon Lariat with a SNAP DRAGON SUPLEX! Shingo seeing stars, Tana grabs him for another, but Takagi desperately fights him off, ONLY FOR A DARUMA-SHIKI GERMAN SUPLEX TO FLOOR HIM!!! ONE! TWO! THR-SHINGO STAYS IN!
Tana tries to get a hold of the neck, but Takagi turtles and kicks him away, prompting Tana to secure the leg instead, connecting a DRAGON SCREW! Shingo hobbling to his feet, a TWIST AND SHOUT awaits him! Hiroshi rolls through for seconds, but now Takagi grabs his leg and RETURNS A DRAGON SCREW!!! Tana’s famously bad knees give way, Shingo now with free reign to stomp the chest, before hoisting him into a MICHINOKU DRIVER II! Heading up, he winds up the DIVING BOMBER, but taking too long, Tana cuts him off!
Beating on Shingo’s exposed neck, he drapes him from the top rope… AND SNAPS HIM INTO A VICIOUS DRAGON SCREW NECK WHIP!!! Takagi’s head damn near popping off, Tana quickly grabs a DRAGON SLEEPER and starts swinging him around Giant Swing style! Slamming him into the mat after 10 rotations, Tana glides up top… NAILING THE HIGH FLY FLOW!!! ONE! TWO! THR-NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
Securing the wrists, Tana goes for a RYUGOYE like last time… TAKAGI CATCHES IT! MADE IN JAPAN!!! Hiroshi smartly rolls away to the ropes before Takagi can cover though, leaving both men to nurse their wounds. Meeting in the middle, they bounce elbows off each other’s skulls, TANA CRACKING SHINGO WITH A HEADBUTT!!! TAKAGI RETURNS ONE, DROPPING HIROSHI!!! Battering the back, he tries for a LAST OF THE DRAGON- SLING BLADE FROM TANA!!!
As the Pumping Hawk rises, Tana cracks a swift TWIST AND SHOUT, before nailing ANOTHER SLING BLADE!!! Back turned to Takagi, Tanahashi’s confident he’s got him… BUT HE TURNS INTO A PUMPING BOMBER!!! Hiroshi rocked, Shingo hits the ropes a few times, before firing off a PUMPING BOMBER THAT TURNS HIM INSIDE OUT!!! Now grabbing the wrist, he teases the Ripcord variant, but Tana counters with the SLING BLADE!!!
Returning up top, Tana crashes into Shingo with a STANDING HIGH FLY FLOW!!! Going back up for seconds, he looks over his kingdom… but Takagi grabs his leg! Tana tries kicking him off, but Shingo pulls himself up, trading blows with Hiroshi! He eats a Headbutt to the neck but firms it, wrecking Tana’s back with punches… BEFORE NAILING AN AVALANCHE EXPLODER ’98!!! LAST OF THE DRAGON!!! ONE! TWO! THR-NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
Gritting his teeth, Shingo winds the arm, going for a PUMPING BOMBER, but Tana just collapses under! Takagi stomps over to him, only to fall into a SMALL PACKAGE! ONE! TWO! THR-TAKAGI KICKS OUT! SLING BLADE!!! Tana attempts a BRAINBUSTER, but the back gives out, letting Takagi fall into the ropes and rebound with a PUMPING BOMBER!!! Securing the Double Hammerlock, he nails a TAKAGI DRIVER ’98!!! ONE! TWO! THR-TANAHASHI WITH A FOOT ON THE ROPES!!!
Shingo’s at a loss, but in this game of natural progression, he looks to replicate his WK success, smacking Dragon Souls off Tana, before another PUMPING BOMBER flooring him! Dragging him up the ropes with him, he wants the STAY DREAM… but it left his neck exposed, Tana raining down 12-6 elbows on it! Shingo forced to let go, he instead trades forearms with Hiroshi, but a HEADBUTT knocks him down this time into a prone position! Tana in perfect position, HE NAILS THE HIGH FLY FLOW TO THE BACK!!! Rolling Shingo over, Tana heads back up… HIGH FLY FLOW!!! ONE! TWO! THREE!!!
Hiroshi Tanahashi def. Shingo Takagi (c) to win the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship (35:36)
For the 9th time in his career, Tanahashi’s the World Champion! Shingo’s neck finally crumbling at his hands, the CHAOS regime is back on top! A remarkable reign from the Dragon, but he’s forced back into his cave. As Tana celebrates though, he doesn’t have to wait at all for competition to line up, KATSUYORI SHIBATA’S THEME HITTING! The fellow Three Musketeer losing his US Title earlier on the tour, he’s had a bone to pick with CHAOS for the past year since their exile of the likes of Goto, who have since been in his corner as part of the Takeover faction. The two long-time rivals staring each down, Tana raises his title with a grin, as Shibata returns a murderous look!
I posted this on my FB. I thought I might as well post it here too.
Just to be clear this is advice not a command (last time my verbiage was a bit bossy). I’m copying it here. The intended audience is a bit different as there is more interest and experience in religious debate here than on my FB page. It’s also written to Christians which are many (but not all) of my FB friends. When I post here I usually don’t write from the perspective that Christianity is true in order to encourage more discussion.
I’m happy to read different perspectives to refine my own.
All that said here it is:
Saturday apologetics tip: avoid the “God of the Gaps” argument.
This is where a proposal says “We don’t know how X happened therefore God”. X usually being the creation of the universe.
Problem 1: Just because you, your friends, your community, the leading scientists, Donald Trump, a full clown car, the world, aliens on Cygnus X-2 etc. don’t understand how X occurred doesn’t mean there isn’t an explanation for X.
Problem 2: A lack of an explanation (“the gap”) isn’t an invitation to fill it with anything. If I don’t know how the junk in my yard got there that doesn’t mean my meany head ex did it.
Problem 3: the most important one for Christians that propose “We don’t know how an intricately designed universe could have been created without a creator” is this: that line of reasoning only gets you to a creator. The only thing we know about this creator from this proposition is she / he / it is capable to design and implement its design to cause what we see here. It says nothing about personality, motives, involvement level, morality, characteristics, benevolence etc. it seems fairly labor intensive for the benefit of “ok yeah, I guess something created the universe”.
To add to problem 3 I have an interest in these philosophical debates. If you are talking with someone parroting a line they heard from “atheists r us on YouTube” and you are good at rhetoric you’ll likely get somewhere. But if somebody has thought about this and decided against it you absolutely will not make any headway (short of divine intervention). I can name 3 arguments they will use against you right now, full stop.
1) God of the gaps (which I presented)
2) “I don’t know” for sure is the only answer
3) Simplicity is a sign of creation, not complexity. Nature takes many roundabout ways to produce results where a good designer / creator would have streamlined.
4) While the odds of having a planet suitable for life is astronomical if given enough chances it can happen. Lottery odds are also astronomical but somebody wins. This presupposes that the cosmos kept “trying” to get it right and eventually it did because it tried so many times.
If you’ve read this far the point isn’t that God didn’t create our universe. It’s that focusing on that isn’t a winner unless you truly think that’s the thing keeping a person from belief. Low chance of success and success doesn’t get you far. Skip it and work to the other strategies you’ll have to employ anyway after you convinced someone that this universe has a “creator”.
My mother applied for an apartment in Texas and was charged an application fee and a security deposit.
After applying for the apartment, the leasing office has increased their price for the apartment and also surprised her with a $400 “non refundable risk fee” and sent the lease agreement for her to sign with the increased rent amount. She is deciding to withdraw the application as a result of this, but the leasing office is refusing to refund the security deposit now.
Since we never signed the lease agreement or even stepped foot inside the apartment, are they able to keep the security deposit?
(Fell asleep early last night. Apologies.)
***** #2t UCLA 87, #6 Michigan State 64.
Can anyone beat the Bruins? Teams are going to line up and take their shots now.
Kiki Vandeweghe took his turn to step up with 22 points as the Bruins (9-0) sealed their spot atop the Top 25 by routing the Spartans (7-2) before a stunned crowd expecting a heavyweight fight.
"We know if we're all playing well, we'll win," Vandeweghe said after the game. "I'm not the guy, I know I'm the fifth guy in the [starting] lineup, but I gotta do what I'm called on to do. Today, they had guys all over the bigs, they had Magic [Johnson] on [Reggie] Miller, and that left me."
Michigan State kept it close early and was only down 43-35 at the half. However, UCLA switched to a 2-3 zone to stymie the outside shooting of Magic Johnson (11 points) and Jason Richardson (10 points). Attempts to drive also failed, as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar converted for 7 blocks. #2t North Carolina 105, #22 Alabama 58.
When UCLA beat Kentucky earlier, the controversy of the Bruins-Heels game meant #1 could be considered up for grabs. Here's Carolina's rather convincing argument.
Vince Carter went for 33 points and Michael Jordan recorded a triple-double with 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists as the Tar Heels (8-1) mugged the Crimson Tide (7-2) before a delirious home crowd.
"Everyone did their job," coach Dean Smith said after the game. "You saw Vince make the big shots, Michael did everything on the court today, we played solid defense, and you saw the result. When we get momentum going, it can be hard to stop, and that's what I'm hoping for."
It became clear from the opening tip that Alabama was in over their head. Bob McAdoo blocked a Latrell Sprewell layup on the opening play. Jordan picked up the loose ball and threw a half-court alley-oop pass to Carter, who slammed it home to set off a raucous ovation. From there, North Carolina never looked back.
"We couldn't do anything right tonight," Alabama coach Wimp Sanderson admitted. "We have to get better." #7 Syracuse 81, #13 Illinois 69.
Maybe the ACC will be more than a two-horse race this season; meanwhile, maybe the Big Ten West is still behind the East in competition if their top team struggles.
Derrick Coleman's 19 points lead the way as Illinois was held to 3-18 from long range by a tough zone defense as the Orange (8-1) took out the Illini (7-2) to make a statement of intent to be a part of the ACC Title race.
"We're tired of hearing about Duke and [North] Carolina," Coleman said after the game. "We joined the ACC to make the best conference in the country and we're going to show that right now. We are the reason it's the best."
Coleman took over in a key stretch in the second half. A three-point play after challenging Eddie Johnson, followed by a dunk spurred by a Rony Seikaly block, lifted the Orange from only up 5 to up 10. Illinois could not get closer than 7 for the rest of the game.
Meyers Leonard led Illinois with 15 points. #1 Kentucky 102, #16 Louisville 61.
The two rivals took the court anticipating a knock-down, drag-out affair. It turned almost instantly into a laugher.
Cliff Hagan had 15 points and all nine Kentucky players who played scored at least 8 points as the Wildcats (8-1) dominated the Cardinals (7-2) in a game with a surprisingly short bench from Kentucky.
"When we have to shorten our bench, we can do it," coach Adolph Rupp said after the game. "I wanted to simulate what we might see in the [NCAA] Tournament. The scoreboard wasn't what mattered; our performance is what mattered. The boys came through today."
The list of scoring was impressive. Cliff Hagan had 15; Devin Booker had 14; Louie Dampier had 13; Dan Issel and Antoine Walker had 12; Anthony Davis had 10; John Wall and Jamal Mashburn had 9; and Rex Chapman had 8. Everyone in Kentucky's starting five outscored everyone on Louisville's squad -- Pervis Ellison led the Cardinals with a mere 11.
"This week's been a wake-up call for us. Let's do better," Cardinals coach Denny Crum said. #8 Michigan 86, #18 Notre Dame 63.
Chants of We Want Kansas could be heard from the visiting Michigan faithful during the game. They just might get them if the team continues performing.
Glen Rice had 20 points, Chris Webber had 17 points and 14 rebounds, and in a matchup of football superpowers on the hardcourt, the Wolverines (8-1) took care of business against the Fighting Irish (7-2).
"Oh yeah, we would love to face Kansas," Rice said with a smile after the game. "You get to be the best by facing the best. That's our goal."
Bill Laimbeer led the Irish with 16 points, but the outside shooters for were shut down by defense from Jalen Rose and Jamal Crawford. Austin Carr in particular finished with 6 points on 2-15 shooting.
"We need our scorers to come through," Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps noted. #5 Kansas 82, #15 Southern Cal 67.
Southern Cal recovered quickly from their opening day loss to Kentucky. Unfortunately, they still seem a step behind their cross-town brethren if this game is anything to go by.
Joel Embiid, Wilt Chamberlain, and Paul Pierce each had 16 points as the Jayhawks (8-1) eased past the Trojans (7-2) and looked to solidify their spot in the Top 5.
"We feel like we can be a top seed," Chamberlain said to reporters in the post-game press conference. "We know there's competition, we know people are looking past us, but we feel we can compete with anyone at any time."
Gus Williams was held to 5 points by an incredible defensive effort from JoJo White, though he did make up for it partially with 9 assists, including four to USC's leading scorer on the night DeMar DeRozan (15 points). #12 Indiana 82, #25 Arizona State 69.
There was a bit of concern that Arizona State was a paper tiger, one that wouldn't survive the Pac-12 schedule to make the NIBL Tournament. While a win would silence the critics, this was a fair showing.
It still wasn't enough to get over the top.
Isiah Thomas had 19 points and 11 assists to lead his team in both categories as the Hoosiers (7-2) took out the Sun Devils (6-3) to bounce back and reclaim their winning ways.
"I think we showed what we can do out there," Hoosier coach Bobby Knight told reporters. "We have a top team, and we know we can dominate in the Big Ten and in the tournament. Isiah had a great game, the twins [Rick and Tom Van Arsdale] played well, and I think we can outplay and outcoach anyone when we have to."
Joe Caldwell had 16 points to pace the Sun Devils. Arkansas 100, #19 Houston 85.
Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson loves to play a full-court defense that he dubs "Forty Minutes of Hell". It tends to lead to more possessions for each team, and if the opponents aren't prepared for it, it can lead to trouble.
Tonight, it paid off.
Joe Johnson had 22 points, Sidney Moncreif had 18 and 6 steals, and the Razorbacks (7-2) stunned the Cougars (6-3) in a high-octane game that took Houston's best weapon -- interior offense -- almost completely out of the equation.
"If you don't let them get set up, you don't let their bigs go to work," Richardson explained to the press. "We knew their two big guys, [Elvin] Hayes and [Hakeem] Olajuwon, they like to get set up and aren't used to running. It was our best chance to pull something off."
While the concept didn't always pay off -- Olajuwon recovered to get 14 points and 5 blocks -- it did upset the natural order for Houston. Outside shooters had to step up, and guards had to make quick passes. Clyde Drexler did his part, leading the team with 18 points, but Damon Jones turned the ball over 7 times to the press.
"This loss is on me," Jones said.
***** HOW THE TOP 25 FARED
- Kentucky 102, 16. Louisville 61
- UCLA(t) 87, 6. Michigan State 64
- North Carolina(t) 105, 22. Alabama 58
- Duke 95, Iowa 66
- Kansas 82, 15. Southern Cal 67
- Michigan State 64, 2t. UCLA 87
- Syracuse 81, 13. Illinois 69
- Michigan 86, 18. Notre Dame 63
- Connecticut 100, Old Dominion 57
- Ohio State 92, South Carolina 53
- Arizona 92, Texas A&M 50
- Indiana 82, 25. Arizona State 69
- Illinois 69, 7. Syracuse 81
- Maryland 85, Dayton 58
- Southern Cal 67, 5. Kansas 82
- Louisville 61, 1. Kentucky 102
- Texas 84, Drake 55
- Notre Dame 63, 8. Michigan 86
- Houston 85, Arkansas 100
- Minnesota 77, Georgia Tech 70
- UNLV 107, Saint Bonaventure 84
- Alabama 58, #2t North Carolina 105
- DePaul 86, Auburn 78
- LSU 82, Kansas State 77
- Arizona State 69, 12. Indiana 82