Every Title On The Line Changes Hands At NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 18

So many title changes at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 18

New Japan Pro-Wrestling held their biggest show of the year on January 4 as Wrestle Kingdom 18 emanated from the Tokyo Dome and there was a whole host of new champions crowned at the event. 

The show began in breathless fashion with two title changes. The opening contest saw Francesco Akira and TJP of Catch 22 defeat Clark Connors and Drilla Moloney of Bullet Club War Dogs to capture the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships. After being sealed in a casket on December 21, TJP emerged as Aswang, a Filipino cryptid, and he managed to change the balance of the match after he bit Drilla Moloney and sprayed him with mist. Catch 22 then hit double knees to win the match.

Only days after he was announced as the new President of New Japan, Hiroshi Tanahashi picked up another singles title in the second match of Wrestle Kingdom 18 as he defeated Zack Sabre Jr. to capture the NJPW World Television Championship. The Ace managed to secure the victory following a pin exchange, keeping ZSJ's shoulders pinned to the mat for the three-count. 

It continued to be a bad night for champions as Tama Tonga became a four-time NEVER Openweight Champion, defeating Shingo Takagi in a very good match. Shingo Takagi was unable to connect with Last of the Dragon while Tama Tonga channelled his Bullet Club past, connecting with Bloody Sunday before he later followed up with a Styles Clash and the DST piledriver to pick up the pinfall win. 

The title changes then only continued as Wrestle Kingdom entered the second half of the show. With Nic and Ryan Nemeth sat at ringside, NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Team Champions El Phantasmo and Hikuleo of Guerrillas of Destiny defeated Bishamon's Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI to win the IWGP Tag Team Titles in their Title vs. Title Match. ELP and Hikuleo looked to score the win following the Super Thunder Kiss 86 to Goto but the former IWGP Intercontinental Champion managed to kick out. El Phantasmo only followed up with a CR3, though, before a Frog Splash from the 6' 9" Hikuleo scored the pinfall win. 

The IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship then changed hands. Hiromu Takahashi had held the belt for a year after winning the gold at Wrestle Kingdom 17 but he lost to longtime rival El Desperado on January 4, 2024. Hiromu kicked out of one Pinche Loco but Despe followed up with two more, including one where Takahashi landed right on his head, to capture the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title. 

A new champion was then crowned as David Finlay defeated Will Ospreay and Jon Moxley in a Three-Way to become the inaugural IWGP Global Heavyweight Champion. The belt, taking inspiration from the old IWGP Intercontinental Title, has replaced the IWGP United States/United Kingdom Heavyweight Championship and Finlay captured the belt following a very good Three-Way as he hit Ospreay with Oblivion and a new GTS-like finisher for the victory. Finlay's first challenger was then revealed following the match as he had a pull-apart brawl with Nic Nemeth, formerly Dolph Ziggler

There was then time for one final title change in the main event as Tetsuya Naito defeated his former Los Ingobernables de Japon stablemate SANADA to become the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion. Naito scored the victory following a fourth Destino and his roll call initially looked to be ruined by EVIL but SANADA made the save for Naito. The new champion then paid tribute to SANADA following the match, leaving him in tears. 

Check out everything that happened at Wrestle Kingdom 18 here

Share this post

AEW Twice Scrapped Santana & Ortiz Winning The Tag Team Titles

AEW Signs Former TNA Champion

Aidan Gibbons

Written by Aidan Gibbons

Editor-in-Chief of Cultaholic.com Twitter: @theaidangibbons