NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 15 – Night 1, January 4th, 2021

Howdy!

We’re here! It’s my favorite indication that the new year has come; NJPW at the Tokyo Dome, so why waste another minute?

Let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?

I want to welcome my partner in crime from the G-1 Climax, Michael Fitzgerald, who will be joining me on the recap today! Mike has done a ton of New Japan recapping this year along with a ton of other work for the blog, and as he’s up on New Japan I thought it would be interesting to present both of our opinions on each match today, and see what we agreed and disagreed with on. Mike’s archive is here, and I cannot recommend his work enough: https://blogofdoom.com/index.php/author/mfitz/

No better way to kick things off than with the return of the New Japan Rumble (or Rando, as it is). Rules are simple – it’s a Royal Rumble where you can be eliminated by going over the top, pinfall, submission, or DQ. Heh! DQ! No one ever gets DQ’d in New Japan! Final 4 head to the KOPW Fatal 4-Way tomorrow to determine the first title holder of 2021. 

The New Japan Rando

Chase Owens is #1, and he’s happy….until he sees that Tomohiro Ishii is #2. Yeah, don’t blame him. They fight it out for a bit and Minoru Suzuki’s music hits at #3, so Owens bails and runs for his life. Suzuki in and Owens comes back in like a MORON as Suzuki and Ishii attempt to murder each other with forearms. Yuji Nagata is #4 and we’ve got some MEAN motherfuckers in the ring now. Suzuki and Nagata renew hostilities while Chase tries to chop Ishii. This man is too dumb to live. Ishii agrees and pounds him into hamburger. Toa Henare draws #5. He fires away at Ishii and they do a nice little bit. Hirooki Goto is next at #6 as Suzuki chokes out Nagata, but Yuji escapes that. Suzuki and Nagata end up on the apron courtesy of Ishii, and Henare knocks both of them to the floor to eliminate them! Yujiro Takahashi is #7, who cares? Henare charges Ishii against the ropes, and out he goes. But he got the double elim, so he’s good. The Bullet Club guys doubleteam Goto as he gets backup from YOSHI-HASHI at #8. CHAOS has 3 guys in the ring, Bullet Club has 2. YOSHI runs wild on Yujiro and I can’t imagine a more disparate example of two guys who both had real post lockdown opportunities, and how wildly different they treated those opportunities. Togi Makabe draws #9 and eliminates Goto and YOSHI with a double clothesline. Tomoaki Honma and his big stupid head are in at #10. 

Not much happens as we’re bogging down a bit. Hiroyoshi Tenzan is #11 as we keep dragging. Tenzan teams up with Honma to eliminate Makabe, which is a bit of a surprise, and then they turn on each other. Rocky Romero draws #12 as the English announcers are aghast, because Rocky is supposed to be announcing with them. Owens teases another elimination, but hangs on. DOUKI gets lucky #13. He and Rocky go at it and Rocky gets the Forever clotheslines, so DOUKI whacks him with his pipe and the ref DISQUALIFIES HIM?!? Am I watching New Japan? SHO is next at #14 and he spears DOUKI out of his boots to save Rocky as the ring is filling up again. BUSHI next at #15. We gotta lose some guys here. Yujiro charges BUSHI and Takahashi sails over a ducking BUSHI and is done. #16 is Tiger Mask, and he renews hostilities with Romero. Bad Luck Fale is #17 and that’s trouble for people, as he’s got a late number. Ishii is the first to attempt it, but Fale gets him on the apron with Chase’s help and sends Ishii to the floor to end his night. Gabriel Kidd at #18 strikes no fear into anyone. Honma gets tossed as BUSHI stops Kidd from entering the match for some reason, with Tenzan getting eliminated behind him. Owens saves Fale from a triple team and Yuya Uemura is #19. He attacks BUSHI on the outside to free up Kidd as Romero gets tossed, and Fale tosses SHO and Tiger Mask in succession, and now my interest in the match is waning. The Lions get in now and team up against Fale. Yota Tsuji is #20 as we’ve got 3 Young Lions in and they all go after Fale. Owens saves, but BUSHI pulls him to the floor and the Lions go after Fale again. Toru Yano is #21 and he’s in no hurry. 

Fale murders the Lions with grenades and gets rid of Kidd, then Tsuji. Uemura gets tossed next, and that’s it. Yano never even made it to the ring. (Final 4 – Toru Yano, Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, BUSHI, 34:40)

RICK’S THOUGHTS: **. This thing died in the middle after a bunch of good workers got eliminated and kind of picked up at the end with the Lions teaming up, but we went for the unhappy ending and Fale tossing all of them for the anticlimactic finish. Yano got a check for walking out to the ring, though, so he remains the smartest man in all of wrestling. I’m not really looking forward to the 4-Way tomorrow, I have to say – it’s not exactly a dynamite Final 4. 

MIKE’S THOUGHTS: Toa Henare looked great and I was happy they gave him the double elimination of Nagata and Suzuki. Hopefully they try and give him a proper push this year, as he’s earned it through working hard and really getting in good shape. This was actually a pretty star-studded line up for what was basically the pre-show match, and I like that they use the WWF No Mercy survival match rules for these. More companies should do that. Chase Owen’s doing the Shawn Michaels 95 Rumble homage was fun, and I liked the Young Lions teaming up. It was just a battle royal as far as the match itself went, but it was fine and the ending was funny, so I enjoyed it. *1/2

Hiromu Takahashi vs El Phantasmo – #1 Contender match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title

ELP trashes the J-Cup jacket on the way down (“You think I’m gonna wear this piece of shit?) and does a moonsault to his feet onto the jacket in the ring. Well alrighty, then. He does not care for the attire, it is quite clear. Speaking of attire, Hiromu apparently looted a claw machine at Dave & Busters and Buffalo Bill’d together a new ring coat. 

ELP bails to start and wants to give Liger his jacket, so Hiromu dropkicks him off the apron through the gate to get us started, then hits a senton off the buckles onto ELP and MOCKS THE JAZZ HANDS. Corner Death Valley Driver for Takahashi, but ELP escapes the Time Bomb. Sunset bomb attempt by Hiromu, but ELP flips out of that and goes for one of his own, nails it! Hiromu’s head BOUNCED off the floor there, Christ. ELP walks the ropes to the middle and hits an absolutely GORGEOUS moonsault onto Takahashi on the floor, then tosses him back in and slaps at him. 

ELP tosses Hiromu and mocks Kenny Omega with the Terminator pose, then does some Nakamura hands as Takahashi comes back in with a shotgun dropkick and a Falcon Arrow, before ELP stomps his foot and takes over again. Stomp to the hand of Hiromu now and he works that for a bit. He stretches Hiromu across the top rope and sentons him on the top, then covers for two. Wristlock ropewalk time for ELP, and I don’t mind it here because he’s been working the wrist. Hiromu stops him with a superkick and brings him off the top with a wheelbarrow bomb for two. 

CR2 attempt and now ELP wants a Styles Clash, but Takahashi turns that into a Dynamite Plunger. ELP doing a Bullet Club greatest hits thing is sort of interesting, I’ll admit. Hiromu avoids Sweet Chin Music and gets the elevated Flatliner for two. ELP back with a driver for two. They head up and Hiromu knocks ELP down, but the ref gets bumped (joy) and ELP hits Hiromu in the dick. Super ‘rana off the top by Phantasmo, frog splash! 1, 2, no! CR2 is countered into a rollup by Hiromu, ELP rolls through that into a Styles Clash! 1, 2, NO! V-Trigger hits, but Hiromu rolls through the One-Winged Angel and hits a DVD into the corner. Time Bomb, but ELP rolls into a bridge for two! They almost had me there, that was CLOSE. Another CR2 attempt, but Hiromu turns that into a ‘rana and hangs on for the pin! (Hiromu Takahashi over El Phantasmo, pinfall, 17:46) 

RICK’S THOUGHTS: ***3/4. Stupid ref bump that was completely unnecessary aside, the match was fun. ELP’s best of Bullet Club stuff was a bit of a treat and Hiromu sold a lot, maybe too much. It was patently obvious he was winning (although that bridge near the end almost got me, I have to admit) and the structure of the match made it even more obvious. Still, they did an excellent job to kick things off. I liked that Hiromu won with a rollup as opposed to hitting the finish, gives ELP some protection for the future. 

MIKE’S THOUGHTS: I must confess that I don’t really get the whole disrespect of the jacket thing that ELP is doing. It’s cheap heat that doesn’t really have a logical payoff, as it’s not like anyone is actually going to beat him for custody of the jacket or something. All it really does is diminish the achievement of winning the tournament if the winner sees the eventual prize as something that’s so beneath him. Basically, there are smarter and more efficient ways to draw genuine heat rather than settling for just cheap heat, and knowing that difference is what separates the top stars from the middling ones. ELP would be well served to remember that. The match itself had the expected high spots combined with some good selling from Takahashi throughout. I’m not sure it needed the bollocks with the ref bump, but the near falls were well done and the work in general was decent aside from the odd moment of sloppiness. ELP using moves of the other BC members was a pretty clever storyline device and Takahashi’s next level charisma carried any of the moments where the work wasn’t on point. ***1/2

Dangerous Tekkers (C) (w/DOUKI) vs GoD (with JADO) – IWGP Tag Team title match

The Tekkers bring DOUKI with them to counter JADO, which is fine with me. Big brawl to start, including DOUKI taking out JADO, and here we go. Taichi does some chokin’, which, you know. I’m not the biggest fan of the man, but do what you know well – choke and kick and let ZSJ do the hard work. Tama takes a beating and ZSJ comes in to tie him in some knots. Uppercuts to the Black Tongan Power Ranger and tag back to Taichi as it’s more choking. Come on Taichi, I want to LIKE you, dude! At least throw some kicks in there, you’re good at that! JADO trips up Taichi and Tama hits the Tongan Twist, and here comes White Tongan Power Ranger Tanga Loa. 

Loa drives Taichi into the GoD corner and they go to work, cutting the ring in half and tagging in and out. Delayed belly-to-back suplex gets two for Loa and we hit the chinlock. Crowd starts clapping for Taichi as he tries to rally, but Loa drives him back to the corner, tag to Tama. Taichi gets a boot up on a blind charge, then hits a jumping kick to get some space. Taichi crawls, hot tag to ZSJ! He runs wild on the GoD, including a tornado DDT on Loa, then a back bridging pin for two. Octopus stretch from Zack now, Tama makes the ropes. Taichi back in and they attempt to double-team Tama, but Loa takes them out with a double clothesline from behind. Dropkick from Tama and we get an official tag. 

Loa in with choking as watching these guys try to out-cheat each other is glorious. Loa takes over on Sabre, but allows himself to get choked and Tama breaks that up, then flips ZSJ into a powerbomb from Loa for two, Taichi breaks it up. Guerilla Warfare takes him out and they set up for the superbomb on Zack. ZSJ turns that into a guillotine choke on the top rope, and Taichi puts Tama in the Stretch Plum. ZSJ screams at Taichi to help him, so Taichi shrugs and powerbombs Zack off the top, thus superplexing Loa and ZSJ covers for two. Tremendous. 

Crazy sequence starts as everyone drops everyone else, ending with Taichi dropping Loa on an enzuigiri and all 4 guys are down. Taichi and Loa face off, and now the Tekkers double team Loa to set up the Zack Mephisto, but Tama saves with a Gun Stun on Sabre. Taichi avoids it and wipes out Tama with a kick, than drops Loa with a dangerous K! 1, 2, NO! THE PANTS COME OFF! JADO comes in and bumps the ref, and Tama nails Taichi with the Iron Fingers, and Ape Shit gives the Guerillas their 7th tag titles. (GoD over Tekkers, pinfall, 19:18)

RICK’S THOUGHTS: ***3/4. I HATED that finish a lot and it dropped it a bit in my eyes. But I’ll give them a ton of credit because they built an entire story around the two teams cheating their balls off and still made one team the faces and one the heels somehow. I don’t think it was the right time to take the straps off the Tekkers unless they’ve got plans for them in singles, to be honest, especially for yet another GoD title reign – the tag titles were getting stronger around the waists of ZSJ and Taichi, far more than they will with the GoD again. But the match was really fun. 

MIKE’S THOUGHTS: Heel Vs Heel matches can be tricky, so having DT as faces for the night was a smart move, especially when Sabre Jr got to do his fantastic hot tag segment. The match started steady but really picked up from the hot tag onwards, with Sabre in particular looking like a star. It ended up being a hot match and I enjoyed it. Douki ended up being pretty useless though. ***1/4

Up next….it’s a Jon Moxley vignette! He’s live in the NJPW Strong ring, and promises that whoever leaves the dome with the US title contract, he’s coming for them! Well, that would be nice, as it’s been more than 10 months since the title was defended and all.

KENTA vs Satoshi Kojima – IWGP US title shot contract defense

KENTA stalls to start, as usual. He jaws with Tenzan on the outside and rolls in, so Satoshi stomps away and works a headlock. Kojima with a shoulder and KENTA bails again. Kojima follows this time and KENTA jumps him and DDTs him on the floor. Neckbreaker gets two for KENTA and he goes to work now with kicks and elbows. Kojima with a comeback, but KENTA cuts him off by going to the eyes and kicks him down. 

Satoshi comes back with Mongolian chops and follows that with some machine gun chops in the corner, KENTA retaliates with forearms. Kojima goes up and KENTA meets him there and gets a superplex. Flying clothesline gets two for KENTA. They end up on the apron and Kojima gets a DDT to the apron to finally get some hope here. Back in and KENTA gets a DDT, then a delayed dropkick in the corner. Double Foot Stomp gets two for KENTA. 

Satoshi finally gets the Koji Cutter and the elbow pad comes off, but KENTA counters a lariat with a powerslam. KENTA gets the briefcase, which makes absolutely zero sense, and Kojima lariats the briefcase out of KENTA’s hands, then drops KENTA with a lariat for two. KENTA off the ropes with a running knee, but Kojima blocks the GTS with forearms. KENTA with palm strikes now and another running knee for two. Kojima goes to sleep for the pin. (KENTA over Satoshi Kojima, pinfall, 14:12)

RICK’S THOUGHTS: **3/4. This wasn’t great. It was about what one would expect from Kojima at this point in his career, but not much more. KENTA mailed this one in from the moon and there was no drama in the match when it came to the winner. I don’t have much else to say here. 

MIKE’S THOUGHTS: It’s nice to know that Moxley will be defending the belt again. They really need to clarify that and I’m glad they did. This match was better than I was expecting it to be, with good work and strong performances from both men. They actually had me buying that Kojima might win the more it went on, which I didn’t think was possible when the match was originally booked. This was one more great outing for the leader of The Bread Club and I’m into the idea of KENTA Vs Moxley. ***1/2

Intermission!

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs The Great O-Khan – Special singles match

This is 100% the biggest test for Khan since returned. Good grappling sequence starts us off, and that leads to more mat work and a Tana headlock. Khan escapes with a slam and tosses him, Hiroshi attempts to skin the cat and O-Khan chops him to the floor instead. Khan slams him on the ramp and Tana sells it like death. Tana makes it back in and Khan promptly takes him down into a kneebar. Tana makes the ropes and hits a dragon-screw legwhip. 

Tanahashi with flying forearms now, but he’s landing on his knees and barely gets back to his feet, grimacing in pain. He goes up, somersault senton hits for two. Slingblade attempt is caught by O-Khan, and he slams Tana to the mat face-first. They slug it out and a lot of the cool, different vibe about Khan has degenerated into a more typical monster heel one. Pump kick into the Mongolian chops and Hiroshi is selling like death to get them over. Kneebar, but Tana makes the ropes. 

Tana makes his comeback with the Twist and Shout and a Slingblade for two. Khan cuts him off with the claw and puts on an abdominal stretch while he has the claw on. Tana reaches for the ropes, so Khan suplexes him for two. Inverted suplex from Khan now and he looks to hit the claw slam on a chair, but Tana turns that into the Twist and Shout. Dragon Suplex from Tana gets two and he goes up, High Fly Flow hits! Tana goes up again to finish it, High Fly Flow #2! And that’ll finish it. (Hiroshi Tanahashi over The Great O-Khan, pinfall, 17:13)

RICK’S THOUGHTS: **1/2. This started so weirdly with the grappling contest that I thought we were going to get something super-interesting with O-Khan as some sort of combination monster/technical wrestler. That would be an interesting character to work with, that you could go with. But it just turned into generic monster against Tana, Tana overcomes and wins. This was rough, as Tana sold and sold and sold for Khan and it just wasn’t interesting and the match went way, way too long for it. Not the big stage shot that Khan wanted. 

MIKE’S THOUGHTS: From the Altrincham Ice rink to the Tokyo Dome, it’s been quite a journey for O-Kharn. This wasn’t on par with some of Tana’s best Dome outings, but it was still a very good match, with both men playing their roles well and Tana really turning it on in the Dome setting. Tana is such a good worker and it almost becomes more obvious in situations like this when he doesn’t have another super worker to oppose him. O’Kharn showed up to work and certainly has promise, but he’s a work in progress so I was fine with the result. Tana has done enough jobs for people recently and O-Kharn has time on his hands. ***1/2

Will Ospreay vs Kazuchika Okada – Special singles match

Lockup goes to the ropes and Will takes the cheap shot. They run the ropes and it’s Okada with the running elbow and a DDT. They end up on the floor and Okada sends Ospreay to the rail before tossing him back in. Okada tosses him back out and hits a running flip dive onto WIll on the ramp, which…..not something I see from Okada every match, that’s for sure. Okada gets distracted by Bea and Ospreay kicks him in the face coming back, then dropkicks him to the floor. Ospreay tears up the mats to expose the floor. Okada escapes a piledriver attempt, but Will still hits a neckbreaker. 

Will punishes the back of the neck with elbows and a jumping knee. Straight up and down belly-to-back suplex gets two for Will. Backbreaker for two. Will comes off the ropes and Okada hits a huge back body drop (some would call it a BIG BACK BODY DROP) and Flapjacks Will for two. Neckbreaker by Okada gets two. Ospreay snaps the neck of Okada and hits a springboard forearm for two. Bridging German suplex gets two for Will. 

Okada cuts off Stormbreaker with a backdrop and hits Heavy Rain on Will. They slug it out from their knees and then to their feet and their facial expressions are just excellent. Ospreay ends up on the top rope and Okada dropkicks him to the floor. Okada follows him out and avoids a cutter from Will and hits a shotgun dropkick. Back in and it’s a top rope dropkick from Okada. Ospreay counters the Tombstone and hits the Cheeky Nandos, then a reverse 1916. Superkick by Ospreay, Hook kick by Ospreay. 

Excellent sequence of counters leads to Ospreay hitting a kick and turning a ‘rana into a powerbomb for two. Cactus clothesline by Will sends both guys to the floor. They have a hell of a battle on the exposed floor and Will ends up on the announcers tables and he suplexes Ospreay over the railing and through the tables as both guys are down. Ospreay tosses Okada back in at 16 instead of taking the countout and hits a Hidden Blade off the top for two. NASTY powerbomb gets two. They head to the apron and Will goes for the Oscutter, but Okada reverses that to a tombstone on the apron and both guys fall to the floor!

Back in and Okada hits a short rainmaker! Dropkick from Okada, and it’s time for the Money Clip. Will escapes briefly, but a spinning Tombstone and Okada puts it back on. Bea gets on the apron, so Okada shoves Will into her to knock her to the floor and puts the Clip back on. Will stretches and stretches and finally with his last burst of energy kicks his legs out and nabs the bottom rope. Okada kicks him with some disdain in it and demands that Will stand. Okada no-sells everything from Will and just beats on him. Okada goes up and Will musters enough energy to meet him there and they battle it out, Ospreay hits a top rope Spanish Fly for two. 

Oscutter is blocked, but after a spinning forearm, a second one hits for two. Ospreay slaps Okada and then stomps him in the head over and over, shoving the ref away. He stands Okada up, standing Hidden Blade drops Okada! Will sets up for another to finish, but runs into a dropkick! Ospreay goes up, cutter runs into another dropkick by Okada! Rainmaker! Money Clip! Okada escapes, Ospreay with a jumping Tombstone! Okada pose by Ospreay! RAINMAKER BY OSPREAY! 1, 2, 2.999999!! Ospreay goes for the Stormbreaker, Okada escapes, drop Tombstone by Okada! RAINMAKER BY OKADA! 1, 2, 3!!! (Kazuchika Okada over Will Ospreay, pinfall, 35:41)

RICK’S THOUGHTS: ****3/4. And I’ll never watch it again. I’m not trying to be a martyr for the cause here, but I just can’t stand to watch Ospreay at all; this was the first time I’ve seen one of his matches since the lockdown ended, and I think I’ve explained my position on this website in particular enough times that there’s no point in repeating it. But it’s the biggest show of the year and I felt like it was my obligation to recap this match because that’s the job. It’s a MOTY candidate, it was the best match on the show and had some objectively tremendous pro wrestling work in it that people are going to discuss. That’s all I want to say about it, and I’m done with Ospreay again.

MIKE’S THOUGHTS: This was an excellent match, with lots of good selling, fantastic counters and sharp near falls. They managed to get the right mixture between having an exciting hot match whilst also retaining the intensity of a hate filled grudge match, which is not always easy as one can tend to overpower the other. It was good to see the surlier side of Okada as he quested for vengeance and he showed off his elite level workmanship once again. This was a proper Tokyo Dome calibre big match for sure. I’m not a huge fan of Ospreay the person, but Ospreay the wrestling character is a star and this was an outstanding showcase for him. If he wasn’t going to win then this was the best way to have him lose. ****3/4

Kota Ibushi vs Tetsuya Naito (C) – IWGP Heavyweight/IWGP IC double gold title match

Wrestling sequence starts us off before the headdroppins begin in earnest. They trade off a few times and we stalemate, so let’s start again. Naito controls with a headlock and takes him over. Up to their feet and they run the ropes, Ibushi with a ‘rana, but Naito cuts him off with a legsweep onto the apron. Naito goes for a neckbreaker off the apron that Ibushi escapes, but Kota can’t escape a suplex that puts him down. He gets back into the ring before 20, so Naito goes to work on the neck with a leg scissors, Ibushi makes the ropes. 

Naito sends Ibushi to the buckles and fires elbows, then hits an inverted DDT for one. Ibushi escapes a tornado DDT attempt and takes Naito down with a dropkick. Ibushi goes for a German, Naito elbows out of it, then hits a dropkick to the back of a seated Ibushi. He goes for the dropkick and legsweep in the corner, but Kota cuts him off on the sweep and clotheslines him to the floor. Naito reverses on the floor into a swinging neckbreaker and both guys are down. Naito puts Ibushi on the apron and hits a NASTY neckbreaker to the floor from the apron. Back in and he slaps on the legscissors across the shoulders, Ibushi makes the ropes. 

Ibushi blocks Gloria and catches the forearm, hitting a German suplex and a double stomp. Ibushi with a powerslam and he goes for a moonsault, but Naito moves and hooks a Koji Clutch, Ibushi makes the ropes. They trade blows on their feet and Naito gets the best of that. Gloria hits for two. Naito puts Kota up top, but Ibushi fights him off and hits a silly backflip kick that mostly misses, but Naito ends up falling to the apron anyway. Ibushi goes for something on the apron as I say a silent prayer, and Naito backdrops Ibushi to the apron. Charge by Naito, but Ibushi ‘ranas him off the apron to the floor!! Good CHRIST.

Naito barely beats the count back in at 19, and Ibushi welcomes him with kicks. Ibushi tries to deadlift Naito back into the ring with a German, but Naito escapes and pounds Kota in the neck. Top rope reverse ‘rana by Naito! Naito goes for Destino, runs right into a kick from Ibushi! Another one! Naito reverses a Kamigoye, Destino hits! 1, 2, NO!! Naito goes for it again, reversal by Ibushi into the Bastard Driver! They slug it out from their knees, then from their feet. Naito with a rolling kick, Ibushi answers with a lariat that turns Naito inside-out. Last Ride by Ibushi, Kamigoye! 1, 2, NO!! 

Ibushi goes up, Phoenix Splash misses! Destinoooooo hits!!! 1, 2, NO!!! Man, I was SURE that was it. Naito will elbows to the side of the head, Ibushi floats over, kick to the head by Kota! Ibushi with the Kamigoye! 1, 2, NO!! Naito back up with the enlzuigiri, Valencia! Destino attempt, Ibushi counters with the V-Trigger! KAMIGOYE!!!! 1, 2, 3!!!!!! We have a NEW Double Gold Champion!! (Kota Ibushi over Tetsuya Naito, pinfall, 31:18)

RICK’S THOUGHTS: ****1/2. A tremendous main event and the coronation that Ibushi deserved, albeit with less people than should have been there to see it. The ending sequence was a bit of finisher spam, sure, but it completely worked as the two wrestlers built to it taking a bigtime knockout finisher shot to win the match. I saw a bit on Twitter and let me say this – this match was 1000% safer than the Dominion match to the point that the two aren’t even comparable. There was risk, but it was managed and controlled, with both guys being very safe in the ring. I’m sad to see Naito lose the straps to be honest, but he did the absolute best job he could in a very tough year being the champ for most of it.

MIKE’S THOUGHTS: So, these two just want to kill each other right? It’s like an anime when two rival characters have a mutual desire to destroy the other at any cost? Because it sure feels like that sometimes! There were some excellent counters in this one (I loved Naito countering the moonsault into a submission hold on the mat. So simple, yet so cool as well). The rana off the apron wasn’t a pretty sight if you’re squeamish about knee injuries though I must say (Although it looked like the selling of the leg was part of the story). At more than one stage in this match I was thinking “Oh bloody hell lads, that spot wasn’t worth it”, which probably isn’t an optimal way to enjoy a wrestling match, but it’s kind of hard to turn that part of my brain off. Yes, it’s their own bodies and they are free to annihilate said bodies in any way they deem fit, but that doesn’t mean I have to always enjoy it you know? The near falls were hot sauce and, scary bumps aside, this was some fine professional wrestling.  I just wish it had been in front of a full Dome without restrictions on the crowd, as they would have been losing their collective marbles on that second Kamigoye near fall. Kind of like Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania XXX, the way to get him into the match was more complicated than it needed to be, but Ibushi WILL main event Wrestle Kingdom 15 tomorrow. ****

Post-match, Naito presents the straps to Ibushi. Kota goes to give his speech, but heeeere’s Jay to ‘congratulate’ him, and remind him that tomorrow, it all comes to an end one day after it began. Ibushi promises he’ll retain. And that’s it for Night 1.

RICK’S FINAL THOUGHTS: An absolutely killer show to be honest, with 2 ****+ matches in the mains and two that were just a shade under that to start the show. We sagged a bit in the middle, but finished up as strong as can be. Interesting finishes around too, with the Empire losing both their matches and the GoD getting the tag belts back. It’s going to be an interesting Night 2. 4

MIKE’S FINAL THOUGHTS: Super easy thumbs up! The under card was great and there was a solid double punch to close things out. Go and watch this!

Huge thanks to Mike, and I hope he’ll be along for the ride tomorrow as we bring this thing home!

And with that in mind, I’ll see all of you tomorrow night!

As always, thanks for reading this thing we wrote, 

Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on Twitter
[email protected]