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Wrestle Kingdom 15 is just a few days away! Two nights of the best pure pro wrestling in the world. To celebrate ya Wrestling Headlines bois Sam and Imp have challenged the expertise of Jeremy Donovan from Social Suplex’s Keepin’ It Strong Style podcast, to a friendly prediction column. Jeremy and The Young Boy proved why they are The Ace of New Japan podcasts when they trounced us last year, so let’s see if Imp and I can get some redemption in 2021.
Before we all weigh in on this two night extravaganza, if you are thinking about checking it out for the first time but are a bit daunted by the New Japan World streaming service, we would strongly recommend using the NJPWext plugin for your browser which helps keep everything in English and adds a few quality of life enhancements to the site. You can find it here: https://njpwext.us/
You can also check out the Keepin’ It Strong Style preview podcast for Wrestle Kingdom below.
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New Japan Rambo
Sam: Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI, Minoru Suzuki and Togi Makabe
This year the RAMBO decides who will go on to be in the four way match for the provisional King of Pro Wrestling title for 2021 so based on how the trophy was handled in 2021, the four winners need to be a mixture of comedic, earnest, serious and well known. As such I have gone for four of the guys that best fit those exact roles on the roster and aren’t in any other matches. Also with this being a Royal Rumble style match but with COVID restrictions meaning there will not be too many people in the ring at once watch for Minoru Suzuki to cut a rage fueled run through the field after being left off the main card.
Imp: Toru Yano, Minoru Suzuki, SHO and Bad Luck Fale.
Haha errr I dunno, we’ve never had to predict the Rambo before! What with it normally on the pre show and all… Hey, for all I know a retired bloke’s going to walk out to what’s left of the pop (thanks COVID) and earn himself a happy moment.
That said, there are a lot of names that could win this thing, but it makes sense to give us a wee mix of competitors for Night 2. So I’ve gone with: Yano, the opposite of Yano, a hot up n’ comer and a big lad.
Jeremy: Tomohiro Ishii, Minoru Suzuki, Toru Yano, and Bad Luck Fale
I’m very excited to see the Rambo back even though it is mixed up with this KOPW nonsense. For this Rambo it will be coming down to the final four instead of just the last man standing. There are a lot of key names who are not featured on the main card of either night. So the names I’m going with Tomohiro Ishii, Minoru Suzuki, Toru Yano, and Bad Luck Fale. It’s very odd not to have Ishii and Suzuki featured anywhere. Also Yano was the 2020 KOPW Champion and defeated Fale for that honor. I’m sure the Rogue General will be looking for revenge and will want to be the first provisional 2021 KOPW Champion.
Hiromu Takahashi v El Phantasmo
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Number One Contender Match
Imp: Hiromu Takahashi
Surely it’s Hiromu, surely. One of the more obvious winners, with the LIJ lad having to go through one Bullet Club geezer before he gets to the other. But when you’re as hot as Hiromu is right now that ain’t no bad thing! I really do like the idea of the two Junior tournament winners facing each other though, somehow makes winning feel an even bigger deal with not one but two Wrestle Kingdom matches for the victor.
Jeremy: Hiromu Takahashi
I’d be shocked if ELP pulls out the win here. Hiromu is the biggest star of the junior heavyweight division. Hiromu had to go through a tedious 10 man block tournament while ELP only had to win 3 matches in a single elimination tournament. I don’t think it makes sense to throw away Hiromu’s BOSJ 27 victory. There is also a built in redemption angle for Hirmou if he wins. He’ll go on to night two to face off against Ishimori who he lost the title to at Summer Struggle in Jingu.
Sam: Hiromu Takahashi
For all the reasons that have been laid out above there is just way that ELP gets the win here. Not only is Hiromu by far the bigger star so far more likely to be pulling double duty, an ELP win would set up a Bullet Club v Bullet Club match and while I love a good heel v heel dynamic, it just isn’t what NJPW would do for their biggest show of the year.
Dangerous Tekkers (c) v Guerrillas of Destiny
IWGP Tag Team Championship
Jeremy: Guerrillas of Destiny
There’s not many regular tag teams in NJPW right now. With Guerrillas of Destiny getting the win would allow Dangerous Tekkers to chase the Guerrillas in the beginning part of the year. Plus Tama and Tonga have failed many times to leave the Dome with the titles. This is the year for them to finally accomplish this feat.
Sam: Guerrillas of Destiny
As Jeremy pointed out it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to have Dangerous Tekkers hold onto the belts here, they have beaten everyone else in the division and ultimately are two singles wrestlers who have been propping up the division. A G.o.D. win sets up a long run for the Tongans who can re-clean out the division Taichi and ZSJ just swept up.
Imp: Guerillas of Destiny
As strong of a 2020 the champions had, you never bet against the Guerrillas. I say that every year though and they’re yet to win at the Dome. So here I am again! I’m wrong every year and I’m sat once again predicting a G.o.D. victory, will this be the year?
I’ll be right eventually.
KENTA v Satoshi Kojima
IWGP US Championship Number One Contender Match
I’m looking forward to this match because the Head Baker of Bread Club always brings it when he gets the chance but KENTA is gonna run through that man like a hot knife through butter.
Sorry Jeremy! I still love bread, bread is hope, bread is life. But KENTA’s going to kill that man. Look at it as the respected vet kindly giving a lovely strong boost of momentum for whenever the hell Jon Moxley’s able to get back into the country.
My head says KENTA but my heart says Kojima. But a wise woman once told me to never make predictions with my heart so I’ll go to with KENTA. However, if Kojima pulls out the upset I’ll be joyfully running up and down the KISS dojo.
BONUS ROUND: Does IWGP US Champion Jon Moxley appear in-person to challenge KENTA for night two?
I’d love him to, but given he’s been advertised for AEW for January 6th, I’d call it slightly unlikely. Unless he’s recorded a Jericho-esque video thin- ah piss I just figured out a workaround.
A lot of fans are assuming the reason Moxley dropped the AEW title was so he could go work the Dome and drop the U.S. title to KENTA. I don’t think Tony Khan is making book decisions to help out a company they’re currently not partnering with. Also I don’t think Moxley would go through the hassle of getting to Tokyo to show up for an angle or wrestle at New Year Dash.
Ok, I may be thinking with my heart rather than my head BUT here is the evidence. Firstly, he has not appeared on TV in person since losing the AEW Title at the start of December. Secondly, while he is indeed advertised to appear on January 6th he is not advertised to appear in person necessarily, even if it is in person because of time zones and the international date line it is possible to leave Japan on the night of the 5th and land in Florida on the 6th in time for TV. Thirdly and this really got my brain ticking, he missed the tribute show for a wrestler who had known for ten years, squared off within every era of his career and when he delivered his recorded video he was in a room with a Japanese painting behind him, the only wrestler not to deliver his piece to camera with the standard black background.
I may be completely wrong but there is enough evidence there to say that Mox is currently in quarantine, ready to do the right thing by a company he loves and finally defend the title he last fought for in Feburary.
Hiroshi Tanahashi v Great-O-Khan
I know betting against The Ace at the Tokyo Dome is somewhat foolhardy but hear me out. One of the big story lines I am tipping will come out of Wrestle Kingdom is the establishment of the new stable Empire as a huge deal in the company. That all starts with O-Khan wrecking The Ace of the company on the biggest stage of the year.
Imp: Hiroshi Tanahashi
As great as O-Khan is- oh wait no, why the hell is this a Wrestle Kingdom match again? Was there a mix up with one of the Road To matches accidentally getting written down on the wrong list? And, well, a whole fancy graphic has been made so we might as well go with it now.
Tanahashi against an opponent who on paper is well below his ranking, like the AI confidently standing up in Round 1 of Tekken. That said if you don’t pay respect, those opponents will catch you and you’re out at Round 3. Something tells me O-Khan will be a devious foe for the Ace of the Universe.
Although he better hope Tana doesn’t pick Eddy Gordo and has ‘found the ‘X’ and ‘O’ buttons’.
Jeremy: Hiroshi Tanahashi
Looking forward to this match. Great-O-Khan has the chance to prove his doubters wrong. Even if this match doesn’t end up being a 5 star classic, it will be the launching pad that makes O-Khan a star. As long as O-Khan has a good showing he doesn’t need to win this match. This is Wrestle Kingdom 12 all over again. Jay White didn’t beat Tanahashi and it wasn’t a Tokyo Dome classic. Now White is main eventing the dome this year. This is going to be a great opportunity for O-Khan whether he wins or loses.
Kazuchika Okada v Will Ospreay
Imp: Will Ospreay
Big match Will gets a massive boost. A route NJPW has driven many a time before, giving the new stable leader the moon to legitimise him via a damn fantastic match on the grand Wrestle Kingdom stage. Look what that has done to so many different men over the years, it doesn’t always work immediately, but the number of times those wrestlers have eventually become shining diamonds (look at Jay White now).
They’ll both be winners in my eyes, but in another way, Ospreay will actually win. If anything it’s really because I see Tanahashi and Shingo winning and would be a bit off for the new Empire to take three defeats like that right off the bat. Let’s not bury the whole group almost immediately, they’re not Retribution.
Jeremy: Will Ospreay
Initially I was going with Okada winning this one. Okada has such a weird 2020. He didn’t use the Rainmaker, he didn’t win many big matches, and wasn’t in the title picture. After a wonky year, a big win at Wrestle Kingdom seems like it would make sense for Okada. But then I started thinking about Okada’s 2018. Very similar situation. In 2018 we saw Broken Ballon Okada. At Wrestle Kingdom 13 the Rainmaker was back and we all thought he was beating Jay White and getting his mojo back. However, we were all wrong and Okada lost in quick fashion. Once again a lot of fans want the Rainmaker of old back and see get a win. Which is exactly why I think Ospreay getting the win here.
Sam: Will Ospreay
As I said earlier it is all Empire from me at this Wrestle Kingdom and this will be the biggest jewel in the crown of domination that will sit on their head at New Years dash. Beyond that particular storyline, it is clear that New Japan see big things in Ospreay and the way to anoint him at the highest level is for him to beat the guy that has represented the pinnacle of the company for the last eight years.
Tetsuya Naito (c) v Kota Ibushi
IWGP Heavyweight & IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Jeremy: Kota Ibushi
Now is the time to pull the trigger on Kota Ibushi. If not now, then when? Ibushi is not getting any younger and is at his peak. They’ve already made Ibushi look like the ultimate geek by losing the briefcase and getting a charity title match. I don’t Ibushi would be able to recover from this loss.
Sam: Kota Ibushi
I agree that it feels like now or never with Kota Ibushi. Despite still having the fresh face of a Young Lion, Ibushi is nearing 40 and the insane bumps he has clocked up on his body will start to pay their price soon. New Japan obviously see him as a big deal, he won the G1 two years in a row, had him headline the Dome on night one last year and signed him to a LIFE LONG contract yet the IWGP Heavyweight title has always eluded him. 2021 is the year he finally fulfills the destiny that he was handed many years ago and has a huge run with the biggest title in the company.
Imp: Tetsuya Naito
Doesn’t matter does it? IT’S SWITCHBLADE O’CLOCK MOTHER FUCKERS!
Although someone has to win, so why not use Naito pulling the double last year against the fans? Make ‘em think he’s going to do it again before dropping him with a Night 2 Saito right onto his head.
Will be one hell of a match as well, should I be worried for their necks? They are aware one of them will be having a second match, right? Something tells me they’ll be wrestling like that isn’t a thing, driving their body like they stole it. They’re scary enough as it is, never mind on the grand Tokyo Dome stage!
Provisional KOPW Trophy Holder Match
Everyone loved last year when YOSHI-HASHI finally won his first title in the company, well what if he was to use that momentum to run the year as the King of Pro Wrestling? Sound wild? Well Toru Yano beat Bad Luck Fale in a Bodyslam or No Corner Pads match to seal it for 2020 so everything is up for grabs. Giving it to the newly minted low-card babyface of all babyfaces could maybe do something with it.
Imp: Minoru Suzuki
I was thinking ‘who is the opposite of Toru Yano?’ whilst I’ve got Wrestle Kingdom 9 on in the background. When out came a white trunks, blonde Suzuki for a bit of shoot style. Fair to say the Murder Grandpa would be a tad of a tonal shift from the Jokester, but is that not what the KOPW Trophy is all about? Seriously, I’m genuinely asking, I’m not sure I know what it’s about.
Jeremy: Toru Yano
KOPW seemed like it was going to be a big deal when it was first announced. It quickly turned into an opening match comedy gimmick. I think this will be the slotting for this title going forward. With that being said I think the 2020 KOPW champion will get the win here and continue his run as KOPW.
El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru (c) v Ryusuke Taguchi and Master Wato
IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship
Sam: Ryusuke Taguchi and Master Wato
I’ll start by saying that this will be a really fun match, you have two earnest faces against two of the most dastardly pirates in pro wrestling, it is a classic combination and a really fun one. I’m going with the combination of the rookie and veteran to freshen up the titles. Also while I was one of the many to dunk on Wato when he debuted, the guy has since proved to be a solid high flyer and is slowly but surely cementing his position in the company. The fact he is a graduate of the dojo system means the company will always have his back so I think they will use this as a way to give him another feather to his cap of relevancy.
Imp: El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru
The Master under the learning tree of a ‘unique’ teacher in Taguchi, hey don’t laugh he’s got a strong history with these Junior Tag Belts *cough cough* birth of the Bullet Club and all that *cough cough*.
I see Wato putting on an impressively flippy display, gets his stuff in with a nice showing, but ultimately makes a rookie mistake and falls into the cheeky Suzuki-Gun traps.
Jeremy: Ryusuke Taguchi and Master Wato
Much like the heavyweight tag division, they’re not many teams in the junior tag division. If Suzuki-gun wins, then what? Wato and Taguchi need a win in order to kick off a feud with Despy and Kanemaru. These two teams can feud over the titles for the first quarter of the year until NJPW can throw more teams together.
Shingo Takagi (c) vs. Jeff Cobb
NEVER Openweight Championship
Imp: Shingo Takagi
The Big E special clash of the sweaty, muscly men! Daddy Cobb drawing power from the grey tuft in his beard, Big Daddy Shingo hiding his wisdom well within the hair dye. Brace for the rain of Strong Style forearms, headbutts and ‘NANI?!’ Powerbomb kick outs at one.
I may have Ospreay going over Okada, and I am betting on Cobb pulling out one of his best NJPW performances to date, it’ll just be in defeat. Shingo proved in the G1 to be an MVP who can dance with anyone and the Hawaiian is a perfect big boy beef steak. But who will be the biggest of the boys? The muscly-est of the sweaty men? The most cooked of the meats?
Both men out to make a statement in what is each their first Wrestle Kingdom singles match, man am I looking forward to this one!
Jeremy: Jeff Cobb
Shingo is one of my favorites in NJPW. He did incredible work in 2020 as NEVER Openweight Champion. I would love to see Shingo hold this title for a whole year and just give us banger after banger. Unfortunately, history is not his side. The NEVER title seems to change hands every year at Wrestle Kingdom. Plus Jeff Cobb will be looking to establish himself as the bruiser of the Empire. A win over Shingo will do just that.
Sam: Jeff Cobb
Some fun facts you may not know, until 1954 Australia used the Union Jack as its official flag, until 1984 the official national anthem was God Save The Queen, until 1986 the highest court of The United Kingdom, The Privy Council, could overrule The High Court of Australia and to this day Queen Elizabeth is our Head of State. At this point I’m pretty much a member of Empire so yeah, I’m picking Cobb at Wrestle Kingdom.
EVIL v SANADA
SANADA had a rough 2020. He didn’t win any titles or tournaments. On top of that he had his tag team partner turn on him and watched him become IWGP champion before him. On the other hand, EVIL has a great year kayfabe wise. EVIL won the New Japan Cup, became an interim Bullet Club leader, won the double titles and was featured in several main events. With such a great 2020, I believe EVIL can afford to lose this match. Getting a win over a former double champion will help elevate SANADA and get him back into title contention.
Honestly, I couldn’t care less about either of these guys at this point even if their story of going from tag team partners to bitter rivals is in theory quite hot. EVIL ruined the main event scene for a good chunk of 2020 and I’ve never seen the kind of fire, intensity or performance from SANADA that is needed to be a top face of this company. I’m picking EVIL because I think they will use his win here to further the Bullet Club Civil War story when Jay White fails in the main event – my pick for a hot New Years Dash angle.
We’ve put up with enough EVIL shit for SANADA not to choke him out for us. A Wrestle Kingdom face off between the G1 Climax runner-up and the New Japan Cup winner would normally be nothing to scoff at, but this is a pure grudge match through and through.
Throughout EVIL’s split from LIJ SANADA was kept away from him, only meeting on the final day of the G1 Blocks in a bout full of heat. A lot of it was the good kind, building into a white hot finish, but thy King of Darkness’ shenanigans doth an efficient extinguisher work.
Back in our G1 Climax Final review I applauded NJPW for showing SANADA walking the righteous path, still on that path and proving himself in the face of defeat as his former stablemate cut corners to the top. Will that same story play out in the Dome?
I’m predicting SANADA is once again EVIL’s kryptonite, the man who is the reason the heel cuts corners, the greater wrestler he can’t overcome one on one. The question is will the corner cutting pay off like in the New Japan Cup? Or be overcome like in the G1 B Block Final?
Taiji Ishimori (c) v Hiromu Takahashi or Taiji Ishimori
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Sam: Hiromu Takahashi
Hiromu is one of the biggest stars of this company, easily the biggest star of the junior division and after an interrupted 2020 still has a number of big potential matches in the division. New Japan gave the answer to this match when they booked Ishimori in the opening matches in Best of the Super Juniors and Hiromu in the main event. Not only do I pick Hiromu for the win, I will genuinely be annoyed if he doesn’t take it out.
Imp: Hiromu Takahashi
Hiromu runs the Bullet Club gauntlet of dick’eads! The current Ace of the Juniors starting to really cement that position with yet another Wrestle Kingdom title win. Last year he reclaimed his throne after an emotional return, but thanks to the pandemic (and/or a certain dose of EVIL) he never really got to run with it.
Champion or not he was the Ace of the Best Of The Super Juniors this year, Ishimori may have bested him in the Summer, but Takahashi is the man in all but name.
Jeremy: Hiromu Takahashi
Hiromu is the junior ace that runs the place. This is Hiromu’s opportunity to get revenge on Ishimori from the Jingu loss. Based on the way Ishimori was booked in the BOSJ, the company does not currently see him as a top star of the division. I think Hiromu is getting revenge and his title back.
Tetsuya Naito or Kota Ibushi (c) vs. Jay White
IWGP Heavyweight & IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Sam: Kota Ibushi
2020’s Double Gold Dash losers match becomes the winners match in 2021! For all the reasons I listed for the night one match I will go with Kota Ibushi here. Jay White is still in his 20s so his time will come but it is go time for The Golden Star. These two have a history of great matches too so I am really looking forward to seeing what they can come up with. I am also predicting that Jay White’s loss here will kick off his feud with EVIL for leadership of The Bullet Club.
Imp: Jay White
What time is it?
Oh it’s ten past thre-
NO IT’S SWITCHBLADE O’CLOCK!
Be it them playing on Naito’s double win, or Ibushi avenging last year’s Jan 5th loss, I’m ready for the true Bullet Club leader to regain his crown! 100% a pick from the heart rather than logic, the latter screams Ibushi to me, but White won me over so strongly this year that I’m giving him his moment in the sun dammit!
The Kiwi having done everything in his power to wriggle his way into the main event after failing against Ishii on the final day of the G1 Blocks. Hey I’m all for a wee bit of a hero’s struggle, a bit of failure before valiantly bouncing back to pose for the end credits. I mean, if ‘valiantly’ means utilising every dirty trick in the book.
Jeremy: Kota Ibushi
Like I said earlier, now is the time to crown Ibushi. The only thing worse than Ibushi losing on night one is Ibusin winning on night one and then losing on night two. Ibushi needs to get his revenge on Jay for taking the briefcase. The limited capacity Tokyo Dome crowd needs to be sent home happy with the sight of the Golden Star holding Double Gold!
That wraps things up for us this week. Let us know what you think of our predictions and who you think will win at Wrestle Kingdom 15 in the comments below or you can reach us all on Twitter, @Sir_Samuel, @TheDamnImplicat and @JeremyLDonovan.
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