By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
Low-Ki © vs Prince Devitt 11/11/12
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match
2013 was the year in which Prince Devitt completely ruled everything about the IWGP Junior Heavyweight division. He would go coast to coast in holding the title throughout the year, whilst also winning all ten matches in the Best of the Super Juniors to be victorious in that tournament as well. No-one could touch him and his stock had never been higher; not since Jushin Liger in 93-94 had someone been so dominant at this weight.
The run of complete control started at the tail end of the previous year. Devitt had already held the title twice before with the reigns ended by Kota Ibushi and Low-Ki respectively. Indeed, the title bounced around between the three men across a four year period, though one mostly dominated by Devitt. Devitt would lose the gold to Ibushi, win back a vacated title, lose to Low-Ki, see Ki lose and then regain the title to and from Ibushi; neither man was truly able to keep the others at bay.
As Ki had defeated Devitt for the title once before earlier in the year, a match between the two a little over a month later arguably saw Ki as the favourite to come out on top. However, he had struggled to hold the belt through his series of matches with Ibushi, so a match against a challenger who had held the title for close to six hundred days was no foregone conclusion. With the Osaka crowd fully behind Devitt as well due to his effective native status and clean cut image, Ki was in for a test.
The opening exchanges were lightning quick, with dropdowns and leapfrogs leading to two Devitt dropkicks: one basement, one normal. Ki would retreat up the ramp to avoid a dive, only to be pursued by the challenger. A stiff chop each highlighted that both men could light the other up, whilst a reversed Irish whip sent Devitt onto the announce table and in position for a potential double stomp by Ki. Sensing the dangerous situation he was in, Devitt managed to knock Ki off of the top rope by hitting him with a case in what was an impressively accurate throw.
As the fight returned to the ring, Ki began to work Devitt over with a dragon sleeper whilst tied in the ropes and a body vice. Some more brawling at ringside had Ki firmly in control and a clothesline earned him the first two count of the contest. Ki used his kicks to keep Devitt grounded before locking on an abdominal stretch to continue the work he had started on Devitt’s midsection. As the pace picked up, however, Devitt would avoid a Ki kick, hit a dropkick and land a no rope swanton-style plancha to the outside.
We had another tease for a stomp through the table, this time by Devitt and Ki used a more conventional punch to stop it. A reverse kick after a missed shining wizard saw Ki gain another nearfall, as did a double foot stomp off of the second turnbuckle after a Devitt slingshot was blocked. Ki seemed to be edging the contest, but a Pele kick from Devitt left both men down on the canvas after a sequence of blocked finishers.
A cartwheel spinkick by Ki had Devitt left in the tree of woe for one of the more legitimate attempts at a foot stomp from that. Luckily for him, he would pull Ki off the top and land a double foot stomp to the champion’s back for a two count himself. Ki was able to keep himself in the contest by kicking out of the reverse brainbuster DDT and even landed a double foot stomp off of the top that looked like it had Devitt beaten. When this only got a nearfall, the resulting Ki Krusher attempt was reversed into a cradle for the three count. Devitt was once again the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion.
Devitt’s run in 2013 would eventually see him transition into the Bullet Club leader after his move to challenging for the IWGP World Heavyweight Title. This victory over Ki sparked an upsurge in Devitt’s career that would eventually see him scooped up by the WWE to complete the journey from Bray, Wicklow, Ireland, to the biggest wrestling promotion in the world.