Imp: It’s the most wonderful time of the year! New Japan Pro Wrestling’s second consecutive year running two nights at the Tokyo Dome as we explode into 2022.
A fighting spirit spectacle of fire to the tune of the latest crowd clapping technology. The modern day pinnacle of pureso, of strong style excellence and heart thumping crescendo. A new horizon dawns on the company’s 50th Anniversary as our battle-hardened gladiators and warriors stride into NJPW’s Colosseum. What new champions will be crowned? Who will dare march against the Empire on Night 2?
It’s time. Jeremy, we roll into the new year in style once again!
Jeremy: WRESTLE KINGDOM SEASON BABY! I know a lot of people are pretending that Wrestle Kingdom isn’t happening, but I’m hyped as usual for a great night of strong style puro action.
Wrestle Kingdom 16
January 4th, 2021
King Of Pro Wrestling Ranbo
Jeremy: Ranbos are like pizza, even if they’re not the best they’re still pretty good. I was super excited to see CIMA appear and advance to the next night. Hopefully, this means we’ll see NJPW and GLEAT working together more this year.
Another fun surprise was Tatsumi Fujinami! The man can still throw a good Dragon Screw. Joining CIMA tomorrow in the KOPW 4 Way is Toru Yano, Chase Owens, and Minoru Suzuki.
Imp: Our wee bit of Pre-Show fun with nice surprises and Minoru Suzuki beating up previously ambitious Young Lions. Not really a match to be taken super seriously, more a pleasant easing into the night ahead. Kevin Kelly never knows how many entrants there are, never mind the running order.
Some top notch surprises this year with CIMA and God damn Fujinami popping in for a quick hello. The former genuinely qualifying a nice change of pace too. We may have Chase Owens and Toru Yano yet again, but good luck with that nonsense when Minoru Suzuki’s staring you down with eyes set on breaking your leg.
Special Single Match
YOH vs SHO
Imp: A great choice to kick us off with two of New Japan’s most promising rising talents. Former Young Lion best friends, multi-time IWGP Jr Tag Team Champions, now eternal rivals of the spot-plenty kind.
YOH showing some much needed aggression in the face of Dick Togo adjacent shenanigans. A match that had possible interruption darkness in waiting, but it never overshadowed the fast back n’ forth of this pace-setting opener.
The House Of Torture man a right spanner as he swung a spanner with the right into a sudden pin from our hero with SHO-ending momentum.
Jeremy: I was initially worried about this match being the opener for this show. Wrestle Kingdom openers are normally fast-paced and set the tone for the whole night. With House of Torture looming I feared this would turn into 10 minutes of Dick Togo choking YOH.
Luckily there was limited Dick involvement and these two turned up the aggression that this blood feud desperately needed. YOH once again out maneuvers SHO and Togo and gets the win with the Five Star Clutch.
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Rysuke Taguchi & Rocky Romero vs KENTA, El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori
Jeremy: A good ole “Road to” preview tag match here. All 6 men will be involved in championship matches tomorrow. The focus of this match was on KENTA and Tanahashi. During the Road to Tokyo Dome shows, KENTA has been using all the plunder to layout Tanahashi.
In this match, KENTA once again found the opportunity to lay into Tana with a kendo stick. However, this time Tanahashi has enough. The Ace snapped and beat KENTA like a government mule causing a disqualification. Tanahashi has proved that he will be willing to get down and dirty for tomorrow’s No DQ match.
Imp: As Jeremy said, a double preview for Night 2 with all 6 of these men set for title matches. Setting up some last minute questions to be answered in true “Road to” fashion.
A unique change of the tide as Tanahashi swung himself into disqualification. Was he showing the much needed aggression when facing a fiend like KENTA? Or a sign that the Bullet Club man has successfully gotten into the Ace’s head and blinded his judgement?
You’ve got to tune in tomorrow to find out!
Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & BUSHI vs Will Ospreay, Jeff Cobb & Great O’Khan
Imp: Our second tag preview of the show, four of the six set for singles matches against each other as Will Ospreay takes it easy ahead of his big main event moment tomorrow..
When you’re BUSHI in a multi-man and you’re the only one without a singles match on Night 2… yeah I don’t fancy your chances. Hey, at least his music played!
Jeremy: Will Ospreay has finally returned to Japan. It’s been 8 months since the leader of the United Empire was seen in Japan. Ospreay knowing that he has a huge main event match tomorrow barely lifted a finger in this match.
Cobb and O-Khan did the heavy lifting as they tried to establish dominance over their night 2 opponents. In the end, Ospreay finally got in the match and knocked BUSHI’s head off his shoulders with the Hidden Blade.
Regular Wrestling Rules
Katsuyori Shibata vs ? (Ren Narita)
Jeremy: This. Was. AWESOME!
First, we find out “X” is Ren Narita. Narita is one of my favorite young lions and he’s been killing it on NJPW STRONG. Then we get the epic return of Shibata in gear in the Tokyo Dome. Could it get any better than this? Yes, it can! Shibata grabs the mic and says this is no longer a catch wrestling match, it will be a regular pro wrestling rules match.
Narita goes hold for hold and strike for strike with his LA DOJO trainer. But at the end of the day, Narita was no match for the deadly sleeper hold/PK combo. A great return match for Shibata. The Wrestler is back! I’m excited to see what the future holds for both of these men this year.
Imp: Eeeeee! Emotions! I just sat back and soaked this in. What a special moment. Shibata may slowly ease back into wrestling, but if this turns out to be it my heart is full.
The Wrestler didn’t just return from injury, he defeated death itself. The fact he’s not just standing in a wrestling ring but also competing in a Tokyo Dome match… it is absolutely incredible to see.
NEVER Openweight Championship
Tomohiro Ishii vs EVIL
Imp: From an emotional moment I’ll truly remember forever, to an EVIL match with Dick Togo at ringside. Brace for that heat, brother! Interference, distraction, cheeky weapons and all. Shenanigans galore as Dick Togo, Yujiro Takahashi, SHO and YOH all jumped in for their say.
EVIL tried to capitalise on it all, but an Ishii at the Dome just pops right back up. All our fears coming true as House Of Torture ran pure HEAT and nothing else. Mate, at least open a window for some air. The whole affair felt stuffy as the room filled with blokes interfering, swinging weapons and punching dicks.
Hey let’s not kink shame, but this really isn’t my thing.
Jeremy: Welp, this match was what we all expected. Ref bumps, House of Torture interference, Garrote wires, and low blows. YOH tried to even the odds but couldn’t hold off 3 men by himself. EVIL is now a double NEVER champion and I NEVER want to see him wrestle again. This is easily one of the worst matches in Wrestle Kingdom history.
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Dangerous Tekkers vs YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto
Jeremy: The Tokyo Dome curse continues and we have new Tag Champs in Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI. This match was hard-hitting and full of several callbacks from their World Tag League match. Dangerous Tekkers scrambled and hit a lot of their big signature moves. However, Goto and YOSHI-HASHI were just one step ahead of the Tekkers. Towards the end of the match, ZSJ was laid out allowing Taichi to be overwhelmed by the Chaos boys.
Imp: The year of YH finally kicks into fruition!
An enjoyable ride of sudden impact and near falls as both teams just kept finding ways to stay in the match. The sheer number of tag team moves our CHAOS boys pulled out was seriously impressive, only matched by the champions kicking out of all of them.
Well, all but one. Eventually the wear and tear left the champions down and out, with no other choice than to tip their cap to the better men after the match.
IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship
El Desperado vs Hiromu Takahashi
Imp: WHITE & GOLD SEXY DESPY!
Bloody hell, the pace of this match was fantastic. Lightning from the off as the Junior style almost whiplashed us into life. Both men charged and dove at each other with no regard for their personal safety, before getting back into the ring to charge at that same pace once again.
A mad 15 minute dash and I absolutely loved it.
Story wise I love the contrast of Hiromu in his career ambition for greatness against a champion who has stood tall in the face of greatness more or less thrust upon him. Despy retaining was a great surprise, but it makes all the sense in the world as he truly takes on the responsibility as a leader of the Junior Division.
Jeremy: Wow, what a banger this was! From the opening bell, these two worked at a breakneck pace. Both men unloaded big bombs early. Despy lands a beautiful flip suicide dive and Hiromu answers back with a sunset bomb. The last time these two faced off they went to a 30 minute draw. Even though they had double that limit on this night both men wanted to end this quickly.
Desperado who typically wrestled a more methodical pace did not slow down one second. He let Hiromu set the pace and he matched and surpassed it. Two Pinche Locos later and Desperado retains. He finally defeats Hiromu on a big stage. This win will help elevate Desperado’s Star power and create a new top attraction for the junior division.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Shingo Takagi vs Kazuchika Okada
Jeremy: Night 1 concludes with an epic clash for the IWGP World Heavyweight title. This was a traditional NJPW Main Event masterpiece.
The match started with a deliberate feeling out process. Both men calculated each move in order to gain an advantage. Okada targeted Shingo’s head while Shingo targeted Okada’s back. Okada attempted to use the Money Clip earlier on, which is the move he used to defeat Shingo in G1 30. However, Shingo was prepared and had every counter ready for the Money Clip.
Shingo’s brute power was on display all through the bout. The Dragon continued the work on the back with a devastation Death Vally Driver on the long Wrestle Kingdom ramp. Shingi unleashed several lariat variations including a Pumping Bomber that caught Okada right in the face!
There were so many great sequences, reversals, and callbacks in this match. During the closing stretch, Shingo fought his hardest to avoid the Rainmaker Clothesline. Victory was in his grasps as he got Okada up for The Last of the Dragon. But Okada would escape and eventually drill the champion with the Rainmaker.
This was an absolutely incredible match! Post-match Okada says goodbye to V4 IWGP Heavyweight Title and finally accepts the World Heavyweight Title. Now we’re all set for another great main tomorrow as Okada will defend against Will Ospreay.
Imp: Big match Kazu cometh for The Dragon! The champion with an entrance befitting a final boss, the rumbling thunder booming underneath such a great big time touch.
The obstacle to overcome for Okada being that he’d never hit The Rainmaker on Takagi, leading to audible gasps out from the crowd as the champion dodged and threw his own. This was anything but Okada simply returning to his rightful throne ahead of Night 2, a Pumping Bomber lariat to the eye sure sent that message.
Yeah, now enter a forearm exchange contest with the champion. Every single time Okada went to swing his lariat, there was Shingo with an answer to the question. The number of times Chris Charlton gasped on commentary in response to a Takagi counter with a, “Jesus!”
Yet another amazing Kazuchika Okada Wrestle Kingdom main event. That man’s the gift that keeps on giving and we do it all again tomorrow!
And that brings us to the end of the Night 1 Review! What did you make of the first night of Wrestle Kingdom Tokyo Dome action? Comment below and we’ll be sure to pop our heads in. Or hit us up on Twitter @TheDamnImplicat and @JeremyLDonovan. Jeremy and Imp will be back tomorrow with a review of Night 2 as we make the internet drive down to Japan once again.